South Dakota teachers lost a fine advocate in the Legislature with the defeat of District 4 Democrat Rep. Kathy Tyler. One could hope that voters in neighboring District 2 have compensated for that loss by electing 37-year teacher Lana Greenfield to the House. Alas, Greenfield's a Republican, so scratch that hope.
As revealed in a "nice" Aberdeen American News interview, Representative-Elect Greenfield has already internalized the party-line excuses for Legislative inaction and irresponsibility.
Greenfield acknowledges there's a teacher shortage but rejects the obvious rational solution of paying teachers more:
An increase in pay may not be the only thing needed to draw teachers to South Dakota, Greenfield said.
“I just don’t think that’s workable as far as enticing our students into getting into the (teaching) profession,” Greenfield said. “Of course, I want the teachers to have a raise. Of course, I think that they work too hard, and if there are monies, I think that money should be specifically earmarked when it’s sent to the schools for the teachers” [Katherine Grandstrand, "Former Teacher Ready for Legislative Position," Aberdeen American News, 2014.11.30].
"If there are monies"—as if those monies appear out of thin air, independent of the appropriative decisions of legislators.
Offer more money, and you'll get more teaching candidates. The only reason that's not workable is that legislators like Rep.-Elect Greenfield throw up their hands in despair and declare themselves powerless to find the money to make those raises possible.
Greenfield perpetuates the guilt trip that teaching is about love, not money:
But money is rarely the bottom line for teachers, Greenfield said.
“More teachers that I know are worried about the outcomes of their profession rather than their income,” Greenfield said. “I loved teaching and looked forward to it every day. I loved the students and staff. In a small school, you get along as a family” [Grandstrand, 2014.11.30].
Got that, teachers? You don't worry about your income, do you? Selfless service to a family is what you're all about, right? And if you're not, well, what kind of a greedy monster are you?
Of course, Rep.-Elect Greenfield can't keep her own extemporaneous bromides straight. One moment, she says the Legislature is a "business," "not a dog-and-pony show." The next she's making entirely unbusinesslike pronouncements in favor of continued inefficiency:
With a majority of South Dakota’s schools in small towns, keeping those small schools open is important not only for the students, but for the community.
“The school is the center of the society in a small town. There’s so many activities that take place that are school-centered,” Greenfield said. “People go there for Snow Queen contests, PTO carnivals, plays, music concerts; it’s a gathering place.”
The ruralness of the state adds another hurdle in attracting teachers to South Dakota.
“I’m worried because I’m afraid that, with the shortage of teachers across the nation, the last thing I want to see is our small schools having to shut down and give way to larger schools that have more crowded class conditions just for the sake of filling them with a math teacher,” Greenfield said [Grandstrand, 2014.11.30].
Hold on. I understand Greenfield's effort to tell teachers that life is more than money. I appreciate her willingness to argue that keeping small rural schools open should be about more than money. But how is that at all businesslike thinking? And if Greenfield is willing to so regularly overthrow concerns about money in favor of greater issues, why does she not apply the same expectation to taxpayers and legislators? Why does she not march to Pierre and say, "There are more important things than leaving money in the pockets of our wealthiest citizens. We need to spend our money to pay teachers the raises that we all think they deserve for their selfless service. We need to pay more taxes so that every one of those rural schools doesn't just survive but thrives!"
But there I go expecting consistent and conscientious policy formulations from Republican legislators. Silly me. Rep.-Elect Greenfield isn't really formulating policy. She's just marking time until she gets to Pierre, where she will faithfully carry out the orders of a stingy, anti-education GOP leadership, which she will frost with sugary word confections for the voters back home.