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Secretary Schopp: Bad Education Policy Is State’s “Gift” to Teachers

Last updated on 2012.11.07

Secretary of Education Melody Schopp spoke to the Watertown Rotary Club last week about House Bill 1234, the Governor's deservedly unpopular education reform bill. Schopp has struggled since January to mount a logical defense of her boss's plan. From what's quoted in last Saturday's Watertown Public Opinion, she hasn't gotten any better.

"The problem lies in our (education) system," Schopp told those in attendance. "We don't need to do school better. We just need to do it different" [Tyler Pickner, "Is There a Problem in Education?" Watertown Public Opinion, 2012.05.26].

Secretary Schopp here offers a weird reformulation of the weird "change for change's sake" justification that has rolled out of the mouths of many HB 1234 backers. Usually when an institution ain't broke, conservatives don't fix it. Schopp admits our K-12 schools are doing great (as have legislators, the Governor's advisors, and at least one former proponent who now admits she was wrong). She and the boss just want (not need) to do things differently.

"It's time to move to the 21st century in teaching, learning and compensation," Schopp said, also noting the "negative connotation" surrounding the reforms have lead to public misunderstanding of its goals [Pickner, 2012.05.26].

An English lesson: Secretary Schopp, we're not just talking negative connotations, the impressions created by certain words. We're talking about denotations, the actual meaning of the words you use and the policies HB 1234 implements. HB 1234 implements merit pay, which evidence says doesn't work. HB 1234 implements a centralized teacher evaluation formula based on standardized tests, which degrade education (see also here). HB 1234 takes away continuing contract rights, which will make schools worse. We're talking reality here, Secretary Schopp, not perception (though even the perceptions of HB 1234 will harm our schools).

"There is a disincentive to improve as a teacher," Schopp said. "It is an incentive pay bill. It allows (school districts) to give more money to teachers who do more or are recognized more for their ability in the school system. It doesn't take anything away from anybody else" [Pickner, 2012.05.26].

A disincentive to improve? That's funny: I never hear any parent or administrator come to my classroom and discourage me from improving. When I stand in front of my students, I never think to myself, "I could try harder for these kids, but they're not worth the trouble. I think I'll start slacking off."

Also funny: hearing Secretary Schopp tout the merits of bonuses... when she herself said on South Dakota Public Radio last January that bonuses don't motivate great teachers.

And now for the crowning lump of rhetorical coal:

"When I talk to teachers... I say this is the gift that the state has given you as a teacher. We're giving you the gift to know that when you're evaluated it's the same evaluation that you're getting in Watertown as you're getting in Wakpala," Schopp said [Pickner, 2012.05.26].

A gift. Kids, don't go to the Schopp house for Halloween: I have a bad feeling Melody can't tell the difference between tricks and treats, either.

A gift. Then why did Santa Dennis only invite Melody and the other bureaucratic elves to the signing and not a single one of us lucky recipients?

A gift. Then why haven't I heard a single teacher say, "Thank you! HB 1234 is just what I wanted!"? The only gift for teachers here is the object lesson in propaganda that English teachers can use to supplement their George Orwell units.

Brace yourself, kids: when the petition drive to refer HB 1234 succeeds, expect more of this Newspeak from Secretary Schopp and the Governor's other water-carriers.


  1. Troy 2012.05.31

    CH, glad to see you are underestimating Sec. Schopp.

  2. Steve Sibson 2012.05.31

    "Secretary of Education Melody Schopp spoke to the Watertown Rotary Club last week about House Bill 1234, the Governor’s deservedly unpopular education reform bill."

    Now we can understand why she was promoting this New World Order agenda at the Rotary Club:

    And for those begging for proof, it's very easy. Go to any Rotary club meeting, look at the cars parked in the parking lot. Many Masons advertise their membership on their vehicles. Then go inside. Look for their rings, pendants, charms, handshakes, etc. They're often very easy to spot. If you're still unconvinced, write down the license plates of cars at the Rotary club meeting, compare them to cars parked at the Masonic Lodge during meetings. I am so sick of people acting like Freemasonry isn't a scourge and Ba'al worship. THREE of the deacons at my church are ABSOLUTELY freemasons. One of the deacons is a Shriner. All four are either in Rotary, Kiwanis or Lions club. They belong to those clubs so they can shop for prospective members.

  3. Barry Smith 2012.05.31

    Sibby's primer on paranoid behavior :-)

  4. caheidelberger Post author | 2012.05.31

    No, Sibby. No, no, no. My finger is hovering over the "Trash" button.

  5. Bill Fleming 2012.05.31

    No, Sibby no. Bad dog. Down. (Sibby's humping Cory's blog leg again. LOL.)

  6. LK 2012.05.31


    I'm not sure how you see her as being underestimated in Cory's post. He reports on what she said and offers rebuttal.

    "Disincentive" has to be one of worst buzzwords ever to haunt the English language. I can't wait for the verb form; I'm betting that we will "disincentivize" although I think I would prefer that we "disincent."

    As for Secretary Schopp's gift. I would urge her to read some Emerson. After all, the Common Core standards do place an additional emphasis on non-fiction: "A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines."

  7. tonyamert 2012.05.31


    Comments like your post above have no place in civil debate. Stop it.

  8. caheidelberger Post author | 2012.05.31

    Wow: she dodges the merit pay question by arguing that local districts can get away from that really bad default plan (assuming, of course, that the Governor's panel gives them permission). She never addresses the fact that merit pay itself doesn't work and shouldn't be written into the statute in the first place. She says the plan is just like TCAP, just with more funding. So why didn't DD simply keep TCAP and add funding?

  9. caheidelberger Post author | 2012.05.31

    ...and she continues to insist that teachers need to do more. That's a harmful and insulting assumption, that we don't deserve more pay for the work we're already doing.

  10. caheidelberger Post author | 2012.05.31

    She also dodges on continuing contract, not acknowledging that allowing schools to get rid of it is a fundamentally bad idea.

  11. caheidelberger Post author | 2012.05.31

    Avoids the math/science bonus question... (why do I submit myself to the pain of listening to these things, Jim?)

  12. caheidelberger Post author | 2012.05.31

    She says she wants us to understand the bill... continuing the fantasy that the only people who oppose this bill are people who don't understand it. Arrgghh! I am perfectly aware of the policies in this bill. I am perfectly aware of the local "control" she thinks this bill offers (jumping through more hoops is not more local control).

    And when asked why this bill is such a hard sell, she continues to say we don't understand the details of the bill. She says she's not selling, just laying out the facts. There's pushback only because people don't know the bill has changed. Utter blinders.

  13. D.E. Bishop 2012.05.31

    "They just don't really understand it", is a very common tool to minimize how bad a bill really is. They want to tell us, "If you really understood this bill The Way I Want You To Understand It, you won't think it stinks as badly as it does."

    What else can she say when it really does stink as bad as it does?

  14. Steve Sibson 2012.05.31

    "She says she wants us to understand the bill… continuing the fantasy that the only people who oppose this bill are people who don’t understand it. "

    Then why are they having s summer study on the issue? Is it because the legislators who voted for it did not understand it?

  15. Steve Sibson 2012.06.01

    Hey Cory, this is from the front page of today's Mitchell paper:

    Both men see education as a major issue for South Dakota.

    “What’s wrong with rewarding leadership and mentorship in teachers?” Vehle asked, speaking about HB1234. The final version of the bill, he said, turned out differently from Gov. Dennis Daugaard’s original proposal. Vehle is pleased that the final version gives more local control by allowing extra funds to reward the best teachers, funds to attract teachers in critical areas such as science and math, and scholarships for teachers to teach in areas that are poorly served.

    Sibson believes the state should quit planning the centralization of education. Instead of accepting new common core educational standards that he claims will dumb down education, and over-testing kids to make sure they meet those standards, he said the state should put the power to establish standards back in the hands of local school boards.

    HB1234 will reward teachers who teach to the new standards, but it won’t encourage or reward teaching creativity, he believes.

    “To fix the problem, let the teachers teach and let the local boards decide how to run our schools,” Sibson said.

  16. caheidelberger Post author | 2012.06.01

    Steve, you are so hot when you are on point.

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