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HB 1044 Makes It Easier to Take Away Teacher’s Certificate

House Bill 1044 looks like a lot of style and form changes related to certifying and disciplining K-12 teachers and administrators. The Secretary of Education gets explicit authorization to initiate certificate violations (what? Dr. Schopp doesn't have that already?). The bill clarifies the Secretary's authority to refuse to issue or renew education certificates as well as suspend or revoke. Most of the provisions seem reasonable and minor.

But I notice three provisions that appear to subject educators to a greater threat of losing their license to teach or administer in South Dakota. (The bill applies equally to teachers, principals, and superintendents; as a teacher, I'll focus on teachers.)

Section 10 changes who can start a proceeding to take away a teacher's license. Remember, we're not just talking about getting a teacher fired—that's handled at the local level, by the school board. We're talking about yanking a teaching certificate, a teacher's permission slip to seek employment anywhere in the state. Right now, SDCL 13-42-12 says that "The school board or governing body employing a teacher or administrator, the professional teachers practices and standards commission, professional administrators practices and standards commission, or the secretary of the Department of Education" can start the process to revoke a teacher's certificate. HB 1044 strikes that language and authorizes "any person" to call for a certificate revocation hearing.

In my teaching career, I believe I've had a hot parent or two say they were going to take my license away. None ever have, because parents can't do that. South Dakota has a nice local protocol where, if you have a beef with a teacher, you first talk to the teacher. If that conversation doesn't satisfy your concerns, you take it to the principal, then the superintendent, then the school board. That's four levels of your friends and neighbors who, if something really is wrong with the teacher, ought to be able to take some action. If your local school board does fire the teacher from your district, it's up to the school board to decide whether to ask Pierre to kick the teacher out of the profession.

The current system allows local districts to filter complaints. HB 1044 lets angry parents skip the local level completely and take their complaint straight to Pierre. HB 1044 comes at the request of the Department of Education, so I guess Secretary Schopp really must want to deal with a constant stream of headhunting parents. Have fun with that, Melody!

Current statute (SDCL 13-42-13) gives the teacher under fire the ability to demand that the hearing take place in the county seat of the county where the alleged violations that draw the complaint took place. HB 1044 repeals that statute and leaves the choice to move the hearing from Pierre with the Department of Education. That increases the possibility that 90% of South Dakota teachers would have to drive at least three hours to defend their certificate. The same drive time would apply to complainants, although (and I can speak from experience) angry parents who want to make a teacher's life hell often are more motivated (and, dare I suggest, given South Dakota's wages, more wealthy?) than the teacher who just wants to keep her head down and do her job. HB 1044 reduces the ability of challenged teachers to at least keep the costs of their litigation down.

HB 1044 then throws another brick at teachers. As if asking, "Are you sure you want to fight this?" the bill offers Section 17:

After conducting a contested case proceeding that results in the denial, nonrenewal, revocation, or suspension of a certificate, the department or commission may assess all or part of its actual costs for the proceeding against the certificate holder or applicant.

Make due process potentially more expensive, and fewer people will seek due process. A teacher facing a certificate revocation has probably already been fired. If she wants to stay in teaching, she'll have to spend every job interview for the rest of her life explaining why she got fired and why that firing shouldn't stop the next school from hiring her. Even if she's a really good teacher and the firing wasn't just, far more employers will decline to give her a chance to prove her abilities, thus reducing her lifelong earning opportunities. Suspending or revoking her teaching certificate only worsens her professional and financial outlook. Doesn't that process already impose enough costs on the teacher without tacking on another bill at the end that says due process isn't really your due.

I also notice that Section 17 is not complemented with a section that requires complainants to pay the cost of the proceeding if their complaint does not prevail. HB 1044 thus goes after jerk teachers who deserve to be kicked out of the profession, but it does not go after vindictive community members who would drag a teacher through an arduous certificate hearing for no good reason.

House Bill 1044 looks like a further weakening of South Dakota educators' ability to defend themselves from local politics and unfair challenges to their professional livelihood. HB 1044 promotes the false impression that there's something wrong with our teachers. South Dakota teachers really aren't paid enough to put up with this kind of grief.


  1. JeniW 2015.01.11

    Who sponsored this bill, and why?

    Is it due to the few teachers (or former teachers,) who were guilty of misconduct (that is, sexual activity with students, or illegal drugs?)

  2. jerry 2015.01.11

    Kind of looks like this bill is designed to bloat government even further by having a much larger department at state level to administer the grievances. Or as I like to call it, the base voting pool for the administration.

  3. Owen 2015.01.11

    I bet some parent who's perfect kid got a "B" got into someones ear on this. It'll be interesting to see who brought this bill up and who'll vote for it

  4. Owen 2015.01.11

    My wife brought up a good question. What ever happened to local control????

  5. grudznick 2015.01.11

    If these complaints now have to go straight to the Education Secretary maybe this is a way to try and get some data on how many good teachers we have out there that don't get complaints and use it as a way to score teachers, since the teachers couldn't come up with a way themselves. I'm just sayin...

  6. Owen 2015.01.11

    What is a good teacher and what is a bad teacher? Again, what has happen to local control?

  7. Tim 2015.01.11

    Why would anybody want to teach here? Cory, why do you do it here?

  8. grudznick 2015.01.11

    I think Mr. H quit teaching for exactly these reasons.

  9. Bill Fleming 2015.01.11

    Curious if the legislator who proposed this would want similar law aimed at other licensed professions. Doctors and lawyers, for example, or plumbers. How about legislators? Should a handful of disgruntled 'customers' really be given the authority to start action that effectively bars someone from practicing his/her craft? Sounds like a recipe for chaos to me.

  10. grudznick 2015.01.11

    Mr. Fleming, perhaps the legislatures think that the teaching industry could use a little more chaos. Some things are better with chaos.

  11. caheidelberger Post author | 2015.01.11

    JeniW, the Department of Education requested this bill. I look forward to Dr. Schopp's explanation before committee for why South Dakota needs this bill.

  12. Bill Fleming 2015.01.11

    If that's the case, Grudz, then I'm for equal chaos under the law. Why should you get to harass a crummy teacher with a career ending threat, but not your crummy plumber?

    Don't you want to be able to upset the whole applecart? Just think, you could even take away Sibby's blogging license. Or your home health care nurse who forgot the gravy on your taters and brought you the wrong size of Depends. ;-)

  13. grudznick 2015.01.11

    Owen, local control is alive and well. It is what every school district chooses to use to increase taxes for schools or not increase taxes for schools. That's local control.

  14. grudznick 2015.01.11

    Equal chaos under the law would be OK with me, Mr. Fleming.

  15. grudznick 2015.01.11

    Lar, Moe was a fine man.

  16. Owen 2015.01.11

    With this bill Grud local control is gone for local disputes. I think you missed my point.

  17. CLCJM 2015.01.11

    Republicans wanting to remove local control and make state government bigger? Oh, it can't be true! But as Mr. Fleming said if they do it for every profession,including the legislators and the heads of every state government agency.

    And while they're worrying about what teachers are doing maybe they should show the same concern about doctors. As far as I'm concerned, when it comes to doctors the state has abdicated it's responsibility and has put the fox in charge of the hen house. I filed a complaint against a dr. and nothing was done. So if the state is going to make it easier to accuse and punish our already beleaguered teachers, they'd better do the same for every other profession!

  18. grudznick 2015.01.11

    Oh, local control for local disputes. I did not understand that. Perhaps this is just more payback then for the fat cat administrators.

  19. Owen 2015.01.11

    maybe Grud, maybe

  20. leslie 2015.01.11

    wow. this is kinda like takin away gun "rights". chilling

  21. Jana 2015.01.11

    Schopp and the DOE are taking orders from the Governor.

    Teach evolution...see ya.

    Sex ed... buh bye.

    Go too far in teaching about the genocide and mistreatment of Native Americans..Toksha Ake.

    Criticize the GOP governors' pet legislation Common Core...Sayonora.

    Thinking of strengthening collective revoir.

    The potential for abuse here is incredible.

  22. Bill Fleming 2015.01.11

    Jana, the Salem Witch Trials come to mind. :-)

  23. 90 schilling 2015.01.11

    Where the governor goes, his annointed Schopp goes and thus DOE following our commander in chief. Her road to the top was remarkable to say the least.

  24. grudznick 2015.01.11

    I think the Education Department would go and do the right things for education. Doesn't the Education Secretary get to be the big boss over all the schools, not the Governor?

  25. Jana 2015.01.11

    I'm guessing you already know the answer to your question Grud...

  26. Jana 2015.01.11

    This is just a little revenge for the 1234 vote where the citizens of SD told Tony and the Governor that they didn't agree with their proposed law.

    Add up the treatment of education by the Governor and his puppets in the legislature and one could make the argument that there is a war on public education in South Dakota.

    Pretty sure they get a wing nut merit badge and certificate of accomplishment from ALEC, Freedom Works and the "He Man Obama Haters" club.

    Say, has anyone heard of the Governor's "Teacher Workforce Development Plan?"

    I've heard he cares about industries that are in need of qualified workers...or maybe not.

  27. caheidelberger Post author | 2015.01.11

    Equal chaos under the law— Bill Fleming just wrote my campaign slogan for 2018. :-)

  28. caheidelberger Post author | 2015.01.11

    CLCJM, I'm sorry to hear that you got not satisfaction from the medical board. Soith Dakota lets doctors discipline their own profession. Teachers get no sich professional respect. Teacher certificate revocation is the decision of the Secretary of Education, a gubernatorial appointee.

    Yeah, Jana, I'm feeling the 1234 payback.

  29. Jana 2015.01.11

    Yep Cory, payback. Remember Tony and Dusty high fiving like school girls getting their first bra when the vote came out of the legislature...hurting teachers is important to them.

  30. JeniW 2015.01.11

    War on Teachers

    Make sure that they are not paid adequately.

    Make sure that they have no power.

    Make sure to have a way of demoralizing teachers.

    At the end of the war, no one wins.

  31. carrie Ackerman-RIcw 2015.01.12 we don't already have a teacher shortage....what is Schopp thinking??? or is it a plan by her and the Gov to get ride of those in the teaching profession who stand up vocally for education. (I've always been something of a conspiracy theorist.) Jana hit the nail right on the head.

  32. caheidelberger Post author | 2015.01.12

    Jana, I do remember that image. I hate to assume my political opponents bear such ill will toward an entire profession, but legislation like this supports that assumption.

  33. mike from iowa 2015.01.12

    Jana,by qualified would you mean uneducated workers? As fast as wingnuts are dumbing down the legislature,I'm guessing unemployed teachers becoming pols is massive overkill.

    Teachers-yours is not to reason why,yours is to capitulate or be fired.

  34. mike from iowa 2015.01.12

    Even elementary school kids in New York hate teachers.


    View full size
    Elba Central School in New York.
    Screenshot from Google Street View
    Three elementary school students in Elba, New York, are accused of plotting to kill their fourth-grade teacher using hand sanitizer because they thought she was "mean." The 9-year-old students talked about killing the teacher "by putting antibacterial products around the classroom," The New York Daily News reported. The teacher had told students that she was highly allergic to hand sanitizer and banned it in the classroom. The plot unraveled when a student who had heard about it told parents, who then informed the school board.

  35. caheidelberger Post author | 2015.01.12

    Carrie, perhaps HB 1044 is meant to transform the Secretary of Education into Inquisitor General?

  36. Travis 2015.01.12

    I'm a teacher in this state (on my lunch break right now), and this feels like par for the course for our state government. I don't know know why my fellow teachers and I are de-valued for doing the job we do, but it seems quite obvious that teachers are viewed as second class citizen's by our state government; citizens who don't deserve the respect and appreciation of our fellow South Dakotans in other professions. I wish I knew why teachers seem to be such a threat to so many people in power.

  37. caheidelberger Post author | 2015.01.12

    Hey, Travis! Thanks for taking a moment out of that tight lunch break to visit with us. If you and I are doing our jobs right, we teachers are always a threat to people in power, because we are equipping students with the critical thinking tools and facts of history they need to understand what's happening in their democracy and exercise their power to change what they don't like. Those who want democracy support a well-educated populace. Those who want power need an easily manipulated voter base.

    Why this fear and disrespect of teachers has taken root so much more firmly in South Dakota than in other states, I cannot figure.

  38. tara volesky 2015.01.12

    Cory, I can see why you are no longer teaching. You hit the nail on the head with your above statement. It is very sad how teachers are devalued in SD. Administrators no longer support teachers because they would rather be buddy, buddy with the Governor.

  39. Jon Holmdal 2015.01.14

    Maybe teachers need to come together and walk off their job site. Yes the S word in South Dakota!

  40. caheidelberger Post author | 2015.01.14

    Jon, advocating that teachers engage in an illegal labor action? Perish the thought!

    But there does come a time for civil disobedience.

  41. CLCJM 2015.01.17

    A quote from David Koch that I came across recently may account for some of the denigration of teachers. "We don't want educated people. Educated people vote."

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