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Dems Say Deutsch Has Agenda to Close Small Schools; Deutsch Says “Complete Fabrication”

Last updated on 2012.11.01

District 4 House candidate Fred Deutsch is torqued:

Remember the post I put up a few days ago about the other two Republicans running in District 4 receiving smut-mail (Tim Begalka and Jim Gilkerson) and saying I anticipate it is only a matter of time until you receive smut-mail about me too? Well, today it happened. The smut-mail arrived. Complete fabrications and lies. The piece attempts to create fear that I have an agenda to close small schools -- the truth is 100% the opposite. The truth is -- I am 'already' talking to superintendents, school board members and teachers from across District 4 on how we can enrich and strengthen our small schools. The truth is -- I am already working with education advocates across the political spectrum (including democrats), yet this piece and the two for Begalka and Gilkerson all show a return address of the SD Democratic Party. This is so sad [Fred Deutsch, Facebook post, October 30, 2012].

Smut-mail? Fred Deutsch shirtless and in his bike shirts? Hubba hubba!

Alas, no such thrills. Deutsch is simply facing the publication of evidence that he supports small-school consolidation. According to two of my sources, Fred Deutsch sent the following missive to the Legislature in February 2011:

I'm out the door to Washington to visit with our congressional delegation about federal education issues, but wanted to drop you a note before I go. The governor has said it's better to take our budgetary medicine all in one year rather than suffer the death of a thousand cuts. Perhaps it would be helpful if that same philosophy was taken toward education. To me, it seems the education bills working through the system this year are like a thousand cuts &ndash they are just prolonging the suffering. My take: the problem isn't that we don't have enough revenue; the problem is we have too many school districts. The number of schools our state maintains is a luxury from an era that no longer exists. If the governor and the legislature can summon the political will to reduce educational funding by 10%, surely, somehow, someway, our legislature can find the political will to reduce the number of districts to a number we can afford to adequately fund. Until you do that, it's death by a thousand cuts. With greatest respect for your difficult decisions and your commitment to our people, I remain, most sincerely,

Fred Deutsch
Watertown School Board Member

Hmm... if someone says Fred Deutsch favors consolidating small schools, that doesn't sound like a complete fabrication. It sounds like a simple restatement of his own words.

It may also be a policy discussion worth having. Do we overstretch our dollars by maintaining too many school buildings and school districts? Does South Dakota have a fiscal obligation to pull back, let some small schools and small communities die, and concentrate its resources on larger communities?

I'm open to that discussion. However, Deutsch's coveted District 4 voters in Florence, Henry, Clear Lake, Revillo, Waverly, South Shore, Big Stone City, Toronto, White, Volga, and Elkton may not.


  1. Rorschach 2012.10.31

    I don't know how you interpret Fred Deutsch's words any way other than that he wants to close small schools like some of those in his district.

    You said it Fred. Be a man and stand by your words. Henry is first on the chopping block.

    I have always thought that it doesn't make much sense to have Pierre and Ft. Pierre as 2 separate districts.

  2. Bree S. 2012.10.31

    Well, I think he's saying that he wants to combine districts to get rid of redundant administrative costs while keeping the same number of schools.

  3. Rorschach 2012.10.31

    You didn't read what Deutsch wrote, did you Bree?

    "The number of schools our state maintains is a luxury from an era that no longer exists." Fred Deutsch

    Nowhere did he say he wants to keep the same number of schools. He said exactly the opposite.

  4. District 4 Voter 2012.10.31

    The response to this email throughout several communities has been overwhelming. I have talked with teachers, school board members and principals who are all very alarmed. I'm thankful that my fellow voters get to digest this candidates' agenda before they head to the polls.

  5. Bree S. 2012.10.31

    Boy he did point that out very explicitly didn't he? Lol. I guess he changed his mind then.

  6. lrads1 2012.10.31

    Quite a puzzling development, considering his statement of nearly a month ago on DWC. Here's the text of Deutsch's comment from 10/05/12 at 1:05 p.m.:

    I wondered how long it would be before some anonymous patron of this blog dragged me into this. There is no irony because the statement about me wanting to close schools and bus our kids is a lie.

    Fred Deutsch
    Republican Candidate for House, District 4

  7. Bree S. 2012.10.31

    I'd make a screenshot of that before the DWC deletes all its comments again, lol.

  8. Donald Pay 2012.10.31

    It does make sense to close underutilized schools and consolidate districts, but to use that as an excuse to not adequately fund schools is just pandering. It seems he was just looking for an excuse not to fund schools, and hit on something he felt people would agree was reasonable. In that sense, it probably serves him right to get bit in the ass. On the other hand, there needs to be some consolidation and some school closures as populations shift.

    As a school board member in Rapid City I had to vote to close a couple schools. It's the most difficult decision you can make because usually the schools selected for closure are older and have a long history in neighborhoods. A few years later my daughter's old elementary school closed. That was tough.

    Back in 2000, we figured a savings of $150,000 per elementary school closed, mostly from reductions in administrative and maintenance costs. Some added costs are incurred for transportation. I don't think much was lost educationally from going from under 300 students in the closed school to 600 students in the receiving school. The fact that there was savings allowed the district to keep some programs, likes band, music, and strings, and the TAG program for a few more years. It would be nice if state legislators recognized the need for increased state funding, but if you wait for that enlightenment, you might as well wait for the second coming, because it ain't gonna happen.

  9. Rorschach 2012.10.31

    I agree with you 100% Donald. Too bad Fred Deutsch doesn't have the strength of conviction to tell voters where he really stands. It's easier to lie and hope the voters don't notice. But with that truthful postcard from the Democratic Party some of them will notice. We'll see in a week if the truth costs him the election.

  10. Fred Deutsch 2012.10.31

    Ladies and Gentlemen:

    As any of you who know me know, I have been a tireless defender of education during and prior to the six years I have served on school board. So let’s set the record straight so there is no misunderstanding.
    If the voters in District 4 send me to Pierre to represent them, I will, indeed work as hard, and most likely harder than any republican representative in recent memory to effectively strengthen and support our small schools.

    Over the six years serving on school board I have communicated hundreds, perhaps thousands of times with legislators. I have worked very hard to be an effective advocate for public education. Each year I sent many, many email to our legislators.

    I certainly understand the SD Democratic Party’s political strategy to cherry pick this single email. It sounds alarming. But let me share with you the context of the situation at the time: after sending numerous email, not too many legislators were responding to me. On the run to catch a flight to represent SD school children at a School Board Federal Legislative Conference, I shot off this email hoping to get a rise from legislators by the time I landed in DC. This email was meant as nothing more than a poke in the ass to our legislators – to wake them up and get them to respond. Of course, some ten months later this email unwittingly has turned around to poke me in the ass too. In retrospect, I regret sending this wise-ass email as it calls into question my intentions with the very people I hope to serve. All I can share with you and your readers is what is in my heart – and that is to do my very best to support the small schools in District 4.

    In the context of politics I suppose the email is fair game. Yet it still grieves me because I have worked hard without regard to political affiliation to do what right for our school children, and my intentions are pure. That’s it.

  11. larry kurtz 2012.10.31

    ass poke: south dakota politics in a nutcup.

  12. Bree S. 2012.10.31

    Well I think that sounds like a very reasonable and sincere explanation.

  13. grudznick 2012.10.31

    Mr. Deutsch is right to want to close the smaller schools. I want to close the inneffectivest ones.

  14. caheidelberger Post author | 2012.10.31

    Right. So, candidate Deutsch, you're saying that South Dakota can afford to keep open all of its current school districts? You're saying that school consolidation is not on the table as a way to improve K-12 education?

    If necessary, I'll offer Fred some cover: I've driven through some South Dakota hamlets and wondered if we need to close them down completely. Condemn the whole village, move everyone to the next biggest town of their choosing, shut down all public services to those abandoned areas, and rewild (Larry!) the old townsites. How much could we save by such a process?

    Or let's go for the big enchilada: instead of monkeying around with tiny K-12 school districts, how about we consolidate to three public university campuses? Any takers?

  15. grudznick 2012.10.31

    I am your huckelburr.

  16. Bree S. 2012.10.31

    Why not allow some of the excess infrastructure to repurpose itself as charter schools. This will give parents more options and allow innovation in education.

  17. Les 2012.10.31

    I'm surprised ol Harv doesn't get a lucid moment and put the Holloween hex on ya Corey.
    Guess that'd take a lucid moment, never mind.

  18. Fred Deutsch 2012.10.31

    Corey, people that know me know that I am against forced consolidation. I believe if a local community wants to have discussions to close their school, it should be their right, but Pierre should have no role in the discussion. Further, contrary to the comments of one of your contributors, I don’t believe in closing poorly performing schools. I believe in fixing them. The issue I have with with school closure or consolidation is the significant adverse impact it has on the community. What may start with the school closure seems to inevitably lead to a downward spiral impacting our communities’ entire economic and social health. It’s not “just” a school issue – it’s an entire community problem.

    Given my beliefs, can you see why the attack piece was so hurtful? Yes, I wrote it. Stupid me. Lesson learned.

    I believe South Dakota can, and must, choose alternatives to school closure and the community deterioration that follows. This can be accomplished, for example, by expanding the use of modern technology, developing regional partnerships, and designing efficiencies in administration. These actions will strengthen the entire fabric of South Dakota.

  19. Les 2012.10.31

    It sounds like you're describing the effects of the four day week as well Fred.
    Saves no money and furthers the demise of the small communities while compromising the very job they are there to do.

  20. Rorschach 2012.11.01

    So Fred, did you say something you didn't believe in that e-mail? Or did you say something you believed at the time and no longer believe?

  21. Fred Deutsch 2012.11.01

    Rorschach, after reading my two comments, if you're still not clear, perhaps a conversation might be helpful. Feel free to call me on my cell at 605-868-9010.

  22. lrads1 2012.11.01

    So...was Mr. Deutsch rushing out the door to Washington and sending off this smart aleck "but I don't really mean it" comment about closing schools in the middle of the school funding cut debate of February of 2011 or in the middle of the HB1234 debate of February of 2012? The date Cory references on the email is February of 2011, which is nearly two years ago, not 10 months ago as Mr. Deutsch says in the third paragraph of his explanation here.

  23. District 4 Voter 2012.11.01

    Hoping to get a rise out of the legislators? Do we want our Representatives conducting themselves in such a childish manner? I think not. The email from Fred is a clear message on how he, a former Watertown School Board member feels about the surrounding small schools.

  24. Fred Deutsch 2012.11.01

    D4 Voter, you're apparently a hyper-partisan person. I doubt there is anything I could say to convince you my intentions are pure and that I'm the best person to represent the interests of our small schools. Be that as it may, below, with permission, I have copied an email I received this morning from Gary Leighton, superintendent from the Florence School District. It adds another democrat voice -- this one from a superintendent of a D4 small school district -- to those that know me and support me. In Gary's case, we know each other from the time we worked together on the K12 multi-district board representing many small schools in our region. I appreciate his sentence that "no one has worked harder for the good of all students." I was also honored and humbled to be elected by my fellow school board members to serve as president of the multi-district board during my last year of service. As an aside, Gary is a well-known critic of the administration's education policy and testified against the state in the Supreme Court's Adequacy case.

    Fred- it is with much frustration that I continue to hear about the level that the political discourse in this country (national, state and local) has reached with attach ads including taking things out of context and making assumptions out of nothing. We worked together for a number of years on the Multi board and no one worked harder for the good of all students. Multi is or should be the standard for the state and everywhere else on how schools and school board members of all size districts can work successfully together. I am sorry the state races have now stooped to such a low level. It is what drives a lot of good people to not be public servants. -Gary

  25. Rorschach 2012.11.01

    Fred, You have invited me to call you to discuss further. I am confident that you and I will discuss this issue further, but not before this election. I do value the opportunity Cory gives us to comment here anonymously, and I have no intention of compromising my anonymity. R

  26. District 4 Voter 2012.11.01

    Excuse me Dr. Deutsch, but how dare you label somebody you want to represent? Just because I don't support you I am "hyper-partisan"? Better try again. Your comments are distasteful and embarrassing.

  27. Not a district 4 voter 2012.11.01

    Looking at Fred's response it seems clear that he is against consolidating schools - I'm not saying that is right or wrong, but to me, it seems he's pretty clear on that and if elected my guess is he would be against it. And, if he did support it in the future, my guess is this conversation would come back big to bite him and his constituents wouldn't re-elect him, so again, my guess is Fred is being genuine in his statements that he is against it.

    But that really begs the question - why send out that e-mail in the first place? You state that you just wanted to "poke them in the ass" because they weren't responding to you. To me that sounds like you were just mad you weren't getting any attention from your legislators and got angry, so you tried to get their attention by saying something you don't actually believe in. So, what else do you say to people and/or legislators that you don't believe in?
    Again, I think your response to the SDDP's attack against you shows that you are not for consolidating schools, but I think it also calls into question your reaction to people who don't pay enough attention to you. I think you can address that, but isn't that a legitimate question?

  28. Steve O'Brien 2012.11.01

    Not a District 4 Voter,

    You say, "but I think it also calls into question your reaction to people who don't pay enough attention to you. I think you can address that, but isn't that a legitimate question?"

    I know Fred. I remember this general timeframe when Fred had set aside many areas of his life to focus on education issues and advocacy. He was then and is now passionate about those issues. His poke at legislators certainly was provocative, but for the purpose of lighting a fire under them and showing a short-coming in their thinking - that budget cuts are devastating; limiting funds across SD districts slices the pie to thinly. I know in the larger context, Fred was pressuring for adequate education funding for the whole state. He was unwilling to have that issue ignored.

    It wasn't easy for a partisan hack like myself to cross the aisle for Fred. I think the reality is that the Democrats will not take a majority in the State House or Senate; I think the reality is that the GOP caucus controls the legislative agenda in Pierre; I think that Fred listens to the right people in education - teachers, superintendents, and board members (who many of his GOP colleges tend to shut out - see HB1234) and that he would be a voice to shape education policy direction from within that caucus.

    How you vote is certainly up to you, but I believe you can take Fred at his word. He will honestly tell you what he stands for - just ask him.

  29. Not a district 4 voter 2012.11.01


    Thank you for your reply - its good to know a smart educator like yourself is backing him should he be elected - I think this is a good example of what someone once said in politics: say little, write even less.

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