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Verges Wrong: Still Plenty of Specific Reasons to Oppose HB 1234

Last updated on 2015.01.25

HB 1234: Still a train wreck for education, still a waste of tax dollars. Sign and share this online petition to stop HB 1234 today!

Josh Verges, education reporter at that Sioux Falls paper, chides teachers for their continued opposition to HB 1234, Governor Dennis Daugaard's package of K-12 education reforms. The amendments of this bill still encompass the four primary and bad policy tenets Governor Daugaard laid out at the start of the legislative session: state-mandated standardized teacher evaluations, merit pay, elevation of math and science above other disciplines, and termination of continuing contract due process protections.

Yet Verges joins Rep. Hickey in poo-pooing teacher expertise. Apparently Verges feels that teachers have an obligation to accept a policy just because the Gang of Six keep moving the words around.

Each amendment has been billed as an answer to the complaints of teachers, administrators and school boards. "We're listening," Daugaard and Republican lawmakers keep saying. And yet, HB1234 keeps attracting more critics. the bill has been amended, complaints about the merits of the bill have grown increasingly vague or off-point [Josh Verges, "Analysis: What Would It Take for Bill to Gain Teachers' Approval?" that Sioux Falls paper, 2012.02.23].

Increasingly vague and off-point? Kind of like hasty generalizations, right?

O.K., try this:

  1. Merit pay doesn't work. Legislators have no evidence it will work. Folks reading the research realize it doesn't work. We should not waste any tax dollars on policies that don't work, especially not when there are effective alternatives.
  2. Arts, history, English, and music are just as important as science and math. Extra merit pay aimed just at math and science teachers ignores that principle.
  3. K-12 schools already have all the tools they need to get rid of bad teachers. Eliminating the due process protections of continuing contract does not improve student achievement; it makes it easier for administrators and school boards to cut good teachers for bad reasons.

Is that sufficiently specific and on-point for you, Mr. Verges?


  1. Troy 2012.02.24

    1). It works with every other segment of society but teachers are different. Unlike other segments, teachers are unable to collaborate and cooperate if it might result in a bonus for another teacher.

    2). Even though there is a shortage of math and science teachers and surplus of teachers in other areas, teachers would prefer students suffer vs. having a math teacher make more money than them.

    3). Thinking school boards and administrators will conspire to terminate good teachers sounds more than a bit paranoid.

    Ok, Cory. I am starting to get it. Teaching must be attracting a disproportionate number of people have envy problems and paranoia. To be a cop a psychological analysis is done. We must need on for teachers since I am using your own arguments and as a teacher you probably know more teachers than me.

  2. LK 2012.02.24


    1. By your logic, Google and Microsoft should follow the same model as the auto industry assembly line. Just because something works in one setting or most settings is not evidence that it will work in all. Where's the evidence it works in education?

    2. Many school boards have said they don't have problems getting math and science teachers. They have problems with SPED or elementary or other areas. No one has yet explained whey math and science is more important than English or history.

    3. Your snark doesn't change the fact that Lee Schoenbeck (I apologize if I misspelled his name) and other Republicans say there's no problem getting rid of bad teachers.

  3. Troy Jones 2012.02.24


    1). Business model differences are not equal to employee compensation models. But my point is only to point out using your industry's own argument it will decrease collaboration demonstrates the envy problem teachers must have.

    2). Fair enough. If they don't have a problem in a particular school district hiring math teachers, they don't get it. But this is not about math or science being more important. It is addressing a macro shortage of math/science and excess in other disciplines.

    3). I am only refuting CH's conspiracy theory.

  4. LK 2012.02.24

    1. As both of us have repeatedly said, everyone should show up to do one's best. I also never expect to see a penny of the bonus money no matter how effective or ineffective I am.

    That being said, there's no objective criteria for what makes a good teacher. Teaching is not like sales or widget building where one can count the number of successful sales or correctly built widgets.

    Believing no one will get angry or hoard ideas when the bonus is subjectively awarded and gives someone 10-15% of a year's salary is more than a little naïve. The vast majority of teachers, however, will reward your naivety by continuing to do their best.

    2. If small schools say there’s no shortage of math and science teachers, where is the shortage? Further, our society bases personal worth on the amount of money people earn. I don’t see many poor people elected to anything including church boards. Paying math and science teachers more just because they show up sends the message that those classes and those teachers are worth more than other teachers and other classes.

    3. Just so you can check your if your blood pressure meds are working, I will remind you that you that this whole execise smacks of a governor doing as much political damage as he can to people who tend to be of the opposing political party.

  5. Sam Peil 2012.02.24

    Troy, Do I sound like a paranoid conspiracy theorist in the following letter that I sent to our Senate Education Committee? I would love to hear your thoughts on my points. They are numbered for your convenience.

    Dear Senator,

    Thank you very much for your service to our state; I am sure that you sacrifice time with your loved ones during the busy legislative session. Please know that your work is appreciated.

    I have been following the discussion of HB 1234 closely this session as an educator, parent, and taxpayer. I am asking that you strongly consider the summer task force that Mr. Cory Heidelberger has called for in the online petition that has been signed by over 1,900 people as of this Wednesday evening. (1) As the Senate has passed HB 1128 which calls for at least four public hearings regarding South Dakota's adoption of the Comon Core Standards, it seems that the next step is to treat HB 1234 in much the same way. Since the standards are an integral part of Governor Daugaard's initial proposal to base fifty percent of a teacher's ranking on the results of the standardized assessments over the Common Core standards, it makes sense to slow the process down for more public input and research-based evidence regarding the standards and all aspects of HB 1234. Please be sure to keep the learning of our South Dakota students at the forefront of any education bills that you pass.

    (2) What evidence has suggested that phasing out continuing contracts will improve student performance? I do appreciate that schools may still choose to offer continuing contracts, but I have not seen the evidence that this legislation is necessary. I do not accept Rep. Betty Olson's discussion of the Harding County School District's "bully" of a teacher as evidence for this legislation. It seems that the District's administrators did not do their job, but I, along with most others in our state, do not know all of the details of this story.

    (3) Giving scholarships to education students who work in high need areas is an excellent idea. I do believe our Dakota Corp Scholarship program was designed for a similar purpose. Perhaps a look at expanding this scholarship is in order.

    (4) Have you studied the evidence that says merit pay for teachers improves student performance? Have you also studied the evidence that disputes this claim? Please consider bringing this evidence to a task force with public forums.

    (5) Regarding the attention given to math and science teachers in this bill, please consider whether the monetary rewards will make those positions competitive with jobs outside of education. Governor Dauguaard released a statement on Wednesday, Feb. 1, in which he explains some of his reasoning behind the math and science needs in SD, "In our preliminary research on workforce needs in South Dakota, we found a common thread. Whether the positions involve healthcare professionals, information technology specialists, welders, accountants, machinists or engineers, we have a shortage of qualified employees in areas that rely strongly on math and science. In the future, we know we’ll need more nurses, more computer scientists, more engineers and more machinists than ever." While math and science are important aspects of the professions he mentions, a few other important subjects seem to be missing from the list. Why aren't Career and Technical educators included? Don't the teachers of technology play a role in educating our future computer scientists? And, again, how will paying bonuses to an exclusive group of teachers improve student performance? At a recent workshop regarding the Mathematics Common Core Standards, a state ESA Specialist told our entire K-12 staff that we are all responsible for these standards. If this is true, shouldn't the teachers of all of the grade levels and content areas be rewarded for raising student performance?

    (6) Lastly, I would like to speak to my motivation to continue to strive to be a great teacher of the learners who are in my classroom and who I see in the hallway of our school. I have learned from seven years of experience, ongoing collaboration with colleagues, earning a master's degree in education, attending professional development, and presenting my techniques to fellow educators. I am motivated to do this by my love of teaching and learning, not by the extra money that I may earn.

    Please vote "No" on HB 1234. Thank you for your time. I look forward to more discussion with you.

  6. JohnKelley 2012.02.24

    Bonuses must be targeted - like laser beam. It is unconscionable to think that a bonus is needed to fill shortages in Sioux Falls or Rapid City in any discipline. That might be wrong, but I doubt it. Bonuses should be targeted where there is a need to fill - be specialty, by area or school district.

    It's understandable that it's harder to find or attract a qualified STEM or English teacher to Bugtussle than Sioux Falls, Rapid City or their commuting area. We taxpayers already pay state employees an incentive to live in SF & RC - we cannot afford to subsidize citified living for teachers unless there is a bonafide shortage.

  7. Sue P 2012.02.24

    Your letter is excellent! I hope you sent it to all of the state senators as HB 1234 will be heard by the full Senate early next week.

  8. caheidelberger Post author | 2012.02.24

    But John, if we target those bonuses to the Bugtussle schools that have trouble recruiting teachers, are we going to see the big schools envying the extra money the small schools get? Will we see more snarky bills whereby the big schools try to punish the small schools for daring to excel, like SB 85 (which justly got killed Wednesday—whoo-hoo!)?

  9. caheidelberger Post author | 2012.02.24

    Brilliant, Sam!

    Troy, this is Earth calling. Are you really so oblivious to the small-town politics that dictate some hiring and firing decisions? Coach makes Johnny sit on the bench, Johnny's mom and dad get riled up, bring friends, and pressure three of their five board members to get rid of Coach, even though he happens to be a darn good history teacher. This is far from some tinfoil conspiracy theory; this is exactly the sort of petty squabble from which continuing contract due process was designed to protect good teachers. Go visit to your local basketball coaches, have a frank talk about the political pressures they face.

  10. mike 2012.02.24

    Jim Bradford and Todd Schlekeway both nailed this legislation in committee. But unfortunately they were shot down.

  11. Troy 2012.02.25


    I think you offer your questions and views logically and in a manner that doesn't demonize those with whom you disagree. You don't accuse them of being anti-teacher or student. Most important, you present your particular view based on your values, knowledge and experience.

    If I were the Governor, I would invite your participation on this issue. Finding solutions on big issues require people of opposing views to be engaged with mutual respect.

    Disagreeing does not have to be disagreeable and it provides opportunity for consensus, compromise, and creative solutions.

  12. Michael Black 2012.02.25

    Many bigger districts offer teachers fairly decent pay. It's the smaller districts that don't have the advantage of economies of scale to give their educators more money. It takes the same amount of money to live whether you work in the Rutland District or the Brookings District. Your pay will be $10-$12K less in the smaller school.

    The question should be: how do we raise the salaries of the lowest paying districts without screwing up the whole system?

  13. D.E. Bishop 2012.02.25

    I came out of college and began teaching in the mid 70s. At that time there was a program that reduced my loan by a percentage every year that I taught in a smaller school district.

    Now that was 40 years ago, but my classmates and I found that program to be compelling, and we all began our careers in small town schools.

    Is that, or something like it, still around?

  14. Charlie Johnson 2012.02.25

    Excellent letter, Sam Peil. Troy, those oppose to HB1234, whatever form it is now or takes in the next few days, are not paranoid nor envious. Their viewpoints accurately reflect what is occuring in education today. Within the educational "trenches" today, there is discouragement, disappointment, and yes at times out right anger at the lack of common sense coming out of Pierre. Teachers of both political stripes will tell you the same.

  15. Sam Peil 2012.02.26

    Thank you, Troy and Charlie. I do agree that mutual respect is important in this situation. I also agree, Charlie, that teachers are angry and disappointed. This legislation all started with fingers pointed at teachers for how we have seemingly singlehandedly caused our schools to deteriorate. All of this without evidence to support the legislation and with many supporters if HB1234 disregarding the reasoned arguments in opposition. This is not mutual respect. Of course we are frustrated and angry.

  16. caheidelberger Post author | 2012.02.26

    Sam's right on there. HB 1234 does not respect teachers. It says, "You're not working hard enough, so you need a kick in the pants. Work harder... and we'll reward just 20% of you. Heh heh heh."

Comments are closed.