Sanity, sweet sanity... from Republicans!

Rep. Anne Hajek (R-14/Sioux Falls) finds Senate Bill 128, which would protect bullying based on sexual orientation as a perfectly reasonable expression of religious freedom, just one example of "scary" legislation with which her party embarrasses South Dakota:

"The media picks up on these bills and people think about moving to South Dakota and they say, 'Oh, crazies are out there," Hajek said.

At Saturday's Legislative Coffee, Hajek spoke openly about the Senate Bill 128, calling the bill quote "scary." She isn't backing off those comments.

"Discrimination is so near and dear to my heart that I am very troubled that anyone would propose that legislation," Hajek said [Leland Steva, "Republican Lawmaker Disgusted with Legislation," KELOLand.com, 2014.02.03].

Thank you, Rep. Hajek.

Also earning kudos for Republican sanity is Sen. Ried Holien (R-5/Watertown), who responds to anti-SB 128 petitioner Alexis Krivoshik with this apology for sponsoring SB 128:

I want to apologize to everyone on this list that my name is attached to SB 128. In the first few weeks of session, we get presented hundreds of bills to sign on. In this case, I was in two different conversations and signed on thinking this was a different bill. Please look at my legislative history and see that I have no history of sponsoring similar bills.

I wish I had a better excuse, but I don't. I wish I could remove my name from this bill, but I cannot at this time. Please know that I will vote against it if I have the chance.

Please know that I am sincerely sorry.
Sincerely,
Ried Holien
State Senator, District 5 [Change.org, 2014.02.03]

Apology accepted, Senator Holien, with great relief. I am deeply heartened to know that there are some legislators, like Rep. Hajek and Sen. Holien, who seem less interested in fighting the culture war and more interested in doing serious policy... for all South Dakotans.

23 comments

Thar she blows! House Bill 1234 puts Governor Dennis Daugaard's really bad education reform ideas on paper for the South Dakota Legislature to debate and (please, please, please) kill. The details:

  • $3980 bonus to every high school and middle school math and science teacher who applies. One need not be a full-time math teacher: the standard is 51% of an FTE teaching math or science. The money comes in a lump sum; school districts may disburse $480 of that check to cover retirement, taxes, and adminsitrative costs (really? the business manager gets to skim?), leaving the teacher with a guaranteed $3500 in pocket.
  • $5700 bonus to up to 20% of the best teachers in each district. We round down: If your district has 99 teachers, up to 19 get bonuses. The district can keep $700 to cover taxes, retirement, and admin.
  • To qualify for a bonus, teachers need to get a "distinguished" rating on the evaluation instrument to be concocted by a 20-person workgroup consisting of teachers (pick me!), administrators, board members, parents, and reps from SDEA, SASD, and ASBSD. This criterion means that we aren't guaranteeing bonuses to 20% of the faculty: if a district has 100 teachers, 99 rate "proficient," and only one rates "distinguished," only that one latter teacher gets a bonus.
  • In addition to the "distinguished" rating, teachers may also demonstrate their bonus-worthiness by engaging in the following activities (that scratching sound you hear is teachers already taking notes and updating résumés):
    1. mentoring of less experienced teachers;
    2. curriculum development;
    3. assessment development;
    4. data analysis;
    5. service to the local district, state, or national committees or task forces;
    6. leadership in a professional learning community;
    7. national board certification (by the way, did you know that credentials don't predict teacher performance? oh, all that effort that could be spent instead actually working with kids...);
    8. other leadership activities or recognitions;
    9. additional criteria determined by the school board.
  • Experienced teachers lose their right to due process if their contract is not renewed.

HB 1234 emphasizes that participation in the bonus programs is voluntary. If any math or science teacher does not want the $3980, that teacher may simply skip filling out the application. Likewise the merit bonuses: if we really believe that merit pay is an ineffective and counterproductive policy, we teachers can shout "we're not racing!" and decline to apply.

Participation in the state-mandated evaluation scheme, alas, is not voluntary. School boards also have no authority to spend the governor's bonuses in any other way. That lack of local control may gum up the works for Republicans who are paying attention. Senator Larry Rhoden (R-29/Union Center) says his conversations with local teachers have led him to believe the Governor's plan should be amended to allow school boards to use the additional money for other locally determined priorities. Senator Ried Holien (R-5/Watertown), a former teacher, agrees that school boards need more flexibility in this bill.

If we can't kill HB 1234 outright, let's hope Senators Rhoden and Holien can at least work such amendments, so school boards can spend this additional money on policies that will actually work.

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