OPINION: RL 16 is wrong for SD childrenOur students nationally rank sixth in graduation rates and eighth in college entrance exam scores, despite state funding and teacher pay being dead last in the country. A draconian makeover will do more harm than good. What’s needed is proper funding.
By: Sandy Arseneault , South Dakota Education Association
Referred Law 16, formerly HB1234, purports to “reform” education in South Dakota. Our students nationally rank sixth in graduation rates and eighth in college entrance exam scores, despite state funding and teacher pay being dead last in the country. A draconian makeover will do more harm than good. What’s needed is proper funding.
Much has been printed about how RL16 will improve schools by “rewarding” good teachers. But no one has been able to point to evidence that these assertions are true. Furthermore, these proponents are glossing over many important details. As the saying goes, “the devil’s in the details.”
This law “rewards” teachers based on student performance on standardized tests and other criteria not yet determined. “Merit pay” is a policy that failed in extensive experiments in New York, Chicago and Nashville. A recent MIT study suggests that student outcomes will most likely weaken as collaboration declines and morale deteriorates. And the idea that our teachers are “in it for the money” is ridiculous.
Proponents claim local control. However, they don’t tell you that each school district must annually submit a plan to a seven-member state oversight board for approval at their discretion. Who makes up this board? They are seven individuals who are appointed by the politicians in Pierre. It’s disingenuous to call it “local control” when Pierre can veto systems our local schools create.
This law dictates that all districts must use the state-mandated evaluation system, requiring schools to base 50 percent of a teacher’s evaluation on student test scores, leading to more teaching to the test and less focus on developing students’ critical thinking skills. This is not good for the students.
Finally, no money is appropriated in RL 16. The $15 million hasn’t been allocated; only “promised.” Such promises have been short-lived. The state law, for example, which requires annual increases for education, has been ignored. Previous “reward” programs for National Board Certifications and the Teacher Compensation Assistance Program were defunded. When it comes to education, Pierre has a history of choosing not to allocate promised funding.
RL 16 is a complicated, 25- page cobbled-together unfunded mandate. It’s a one-size fits all power grab from Pierre. It had little input from those who work every day in the classroom. It’s the wrong answer for our children. We can do better for our students and the voter can start by voting No on Referred Law 16.
Sandy Arseneault is the president of the South Dakota Education Association.