Last updated on 2016.12.18
At the District 31 crackerbarrel in Spearfish yesterday, an audience member asked whether the Legislature will base bonuses for state workers on merit and limit them to the best 20% of employees the way HB 1234 does to teachers. Even after moderator Bryan Walker's clarification of the obvious, watch Rep. Chuck Turbiville (R-31/Deadwood) totally miss the point:
"I don't think there's anybody that is going to have to... I don't think there's any department that will issue bonuses based on performance evaluation," says Rep. Turbiville.
And why on earth not, Chuck? I mean, I know you've said you don't think merit pay can work. You repeated that you don't think it can work. But you voted for merit pay on the House floor less than two weeks ago.
Rep. Turbiville says his vote was nothing more than procedural, an effort to hurry the bill over to the Senate for further negotiation. Rep. Turbiville and Rep. Romkema are clinging to the idea that crying "the process" can absolve them of their votes for bad policy that they won't support in other areas. In Rep. Romkema's words, voting for a bill "doesn't mean an endorsement of that particular bill."
In other words, legislators votes mean nothing, and we can't hold legislators accountable for them.
The very next crackerbarrel question asked the District 31 legislators what evidence they have seen that merit pay works:
- Rep. Romkema: none.
- Rep. Turbiville: none.
- Sen. Nelson: one study says it works, one study says it doesn't... but don't worry, because "a lot of the merit pay part of the original bill is no longer there." The latter statement is inaccurate: every word of the merit pay provisions in Governor Daugaard's original proposal (Sections 7–15) is in the current version of the bill (Sections 17–25).
Voting against the merit pay in HB 1234 should be simple: no one is considering merit pay for state workers, because there is no clear evidence that merit pay works. No one should be considering merit bonuses for public school teachers.