On trip to Mitchell, Daugaard touts his proposal for teachers, studentsGov. Dennis Daugaard said Monday in Mitchell that the state must focus on teacher quality, student performance and better training opportunities for both.
By: TOM LAWRENCE and ANNA JAUHOLA, The Daily Republic
Gov. Dennis Daugaard said Monday in Mitchell that the state must focus on teacher quality, student performance and better training opportunities for both.
That will mean changing how teachers are evaluated, Daugaard said, and eventually lead to the end of tenure for South Dakota teachers.
During the governor’s State of the State speech last week in Pierre, he said he hopes to give students better opportunities through training and attracting better teachers to the state. He envisions a three-year implementation of the program.
Daugaard spoke Monday morning at the Highland Conference Center in Mitchell to a crowd of about 50 and later sat down with The Daily Republic editorial board to discuss his education goals, as well as other issues.
Daugaard compared education in 1971 to 2011. He said the number of K-12 students in South Dakota has dropped by 49,377, but the state is spending more per student.
In 1969, the state spent about $4,000 per student in today’s dollars, he said. Forty years later, the state was spending nearly $9,000 per student.
“It’s perfectly reasonable to assign more human resources or more dollar resources to any job,” he said, but he added that the extra investment should produce results.
The governor’s staff also compared state ACT scores from the last 40 years and found the scores have remained flat from 1985 to the present.
“We should not measure our schools based on the money we’re putting in or how many people are in the school,” he said. “We should measure our schools by what our students are doing.”
Daugaard said he cannot justify putting more money into what he termed the current ineffective educational system in South Dakota.
He hopes the proposed new system — which aims to create a common set of core standards, a new school accountability system and a stronger teacher evaluation system — will focus on investing in teachers to increase student achievement. The system will also focus on retaining and attracting great teachers, he said.
The common set of core standards will be based on problem-solving and a higher order of thinking, he said. The budget will call for $8 million to train teachers on the common core standards.
The accountability system will test students at the beginning, middle and end of the year. This will enable teachers to understand how students have grown through the year.
The teacher evaluation system will include administrators looking at growth in test scores and classroom evaluation.
Daugaard said the new education plan will be implemented over the next three years, so by the 2014-15 academic year, teachers performing in the top 20 percent in each district will receive $5,000 bonuses.
“They could be eligible to earn it each year,” he said.
South Dakota also needs to train teachers to work in math and science, he said.
Last year, 179 elementary education teachers were trained in the state while two science teachers were trained.
“We need to incent them to choose high school science and math,” Daugaard said.
Starting in the 2013-14 academic year under Daugaard’s plan, math and science teachers in South Dakota will automatically receive a $3,500 bonus each year they stay in the field. Those teachers are also eligible for the $5,000 bonus.
Because this new system is based on evaluation, Daugaard said the tenure system must disappear.
Current teachers who have reached tenure status will keep it, but new teachers entering the field will never see tenure, he said, if the Legislature passes the proposal.
He said it’s an outdated concept that is difficult to defend.
“I don’t think they even know why they have it, other than it’s institutionalized,” Daugaard said.
Daugaard was accompanied by South Dakota Education Secretary Melody Schopp and Tony Venhuizen, his director of policy and communications, and he said all three will work to pass the package through the Legislature.
Daugaard said a Mitchell Board of Education member told him Monday, “I support everything you’re proposing,” and Daugaard said Mitchell Superintendent Joe Graves has been “very supportive.”
“Probably the most push-back is from teachers, and that’s to be expected,” Daugaard said. “Everybody gets anxious when there’s a change.”
Daugaard said he has been surprised to learn how many paid advocates education employees and school districts have in Pierre.
“The education community has a lot of lobbyists,” he said. “The big schools have their own lobbyist or two, the small schools or middle schools have a school lobbyist or two, Sioux Falls has its own lobbyist, SDEA (the South Dakota Education Association, a teachers’ union), the school board association.
“The only one that doesn’t have a lobbyist is students,” Daugaard said. “I’m their lobbyist now.”
He said while he cannot impact socio-economic factors or improve the home lives of students, he can focus on teachers.
Daugaard said it’s clear to him that a dramatic change is needed.
“I think the current compensation system rewards mediocrity,” he said.
He said school boards and administrators need to demand excellence.
Daugaard said his plan is not anti-teacher.
“It’s not an attack on the union,” he said. “It’s an effort to deal with tenure, which does not make sense with our students.”
Teachers should not see this as an attack, Daugaard and Venhuizen said — not with a $15 million package potentially headed to teachers.
Daugaard touched on the South Dakota WINS initiative, which puts emphasis on promoting rural health occupations, drawing people back and to South Dakota and preparing youth and the workforce for skilled positions.
A part of that initiative includes adding a welding program at Mitchell Technical Institute, which will be done with $500,000 in one-time money, Daugaard said.
“Ongoing expenses should only be met with ongoing revenue,” he said. “This would be one-time expense.”
Daugaard said welding is “a different cat” than when he welded on an assembly line in college.
Although other vocational schools in the state offer welding programs, he said he wanted to provide a program at MTI because there is a “pretty good demand both in Mitchell and the surrounding communities” for welders.
He also plans to expand the number of inmates trained in welding at the prison in Springfield and to offer a distance education approach on machining and welding.
Recruiting workers, companies
Through a state program called Dakota Roots, Daugaard hopes to entice South Dakota natives to return to and work in the state. And, by partnering with Manpower, a national recruiting firm, the governor hopes to bring new people in for jobs in high demand.
His budget also calls for expanding the medical and physician assistant school openings to bring more medical personnel to rural areas.
Also, Daugaard said if a health care professional agrees to move to and stay in rural South Dakota for five years, the state will reimburse that person’s medical school tuition.
During the question and answer session after his presentation, Daugaard answered the question, “What is the biggest obstacle in attracting people to South Dakota?”
“It’s a perception or lack of perception of what it’s like here,” he said.
Daugaard said the state had been trying to attract a California manufacturing company, but wasn’t having much luck until company officials made a trip to South Dakota. Once they saw the state, they found it had more positive qualities than expected.
“They’re pretty enthused about what we’ve got here. Too many people think of South Dakota as cold and wide open. But we’re also warm, beautiful and wide open,” he said to laughter from the audience.
Daugaard said he believes the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has learned a hard lesson from the devastating floods of 2011.
“Their communication was not what it should be. I shouldn’t find out the Wednesday before they turned the faucet wide open,” he said. “They knew the snowpack was 200 percent of normal, the runoff was 200 percent of normal. They didn’t tell us.”
While it’s been a remarkably dry winter, Daugaard said he wasn’t ready to prepare for a drought or say there will be no flood risk.
Most snow falls in February, March and April, he said.
“A lot can still happen,” Daugaard said.
He said he is aware that some of the same people who said it was too wet last year may say it’s too dry this year.
“It’s our nature to be complainers,” Daugaard said.