Education Task Force Allows Reporters at Public Meetings… with Limits

Governor Dennis Daugaard’s office has provided some clarification on the openness of the upcoming meetings of the Blue Ribbon Task Force on Teachers and Students (BluRTFTS).

  1. As reported here last week, the meetings in Chamberlain, Rapid City, Sioux Falls, Yankton, Watertown, and Aberdeen will consist of three sessions: one for educators, one for businessfolks, and one for the general public.
  2. The general public meetings will be open to anyone; however, the Governor’s office asks that media “not record the entire event or attribute statements by any attendee without permission.” The intent here is to allow attendees to “feel free to openly share their thoughts.”
  3. Any educator is welcome to participate in the educators meetings.
  4. Any businessperson is welcome to participate in the businesspeople’s meetings.
  5. Neither of those two sector-specific meetings are “invitation only.”
  6. Neither of those two sector-specific meetings will include the media.
  7. Task force members may be available for media interviews between meetings. However, “Not all task force members will be present at these meetings, however, and a report of the findings from the public meetings will be shared with the entire task force once all the meetings are complete.”

I have multiple concerns:

  1. If a meeting is open to the public, and any participant’s remarks can be heard by anyone in attendance, can any speaker enjoy any expectation of privacy or anonymity? In a truly public forum, media should be free to report exactly what happens.
  2. What observations on public policy could educators, businesspeople, or the general public have that should not be accorded full public scrutiny and accountability?
  3. If task force members do not attend all meetings, and if a detailed public record of those meetings is not maintained, how can we be sure all task force members are presented with and form policy upon all relevant information presented?

Even with these concerns, I will be happy to attend both the educator session and the public meeting in Aberdeen on June 23. If I’m feeling ambitious (and don’t need the extra two hours to gather last-week referendum signatures), I may even press for admission to the business meeting. After all, I sell ads! I’m a businessman!

18 Responses to Education Task Force Allows Reporters at Public Meetings… with Limits

  1. larry kurtz

    PNR should attend: he’s clueless.

  2. Donald Pay

    This is the screwiest “task force” I can recall ever having heard of. It’s also illegal to try to do what they are trying to do.

    If you want to hold private meetings, don’t invite the public and pretend they are open. If I were a Legislator, I wouldn’t sit as a member on anything as illegal as this is, and anyone with any ethics will drop the hell off this thing. If I were a member of the media, I’d attend and have my recording devise on the entire time. What are they going to do, arrest you for attending a public meeting?

  3. Fred Deutsch

    Cory, this won’t be like a rock-concert with long lines and bouncers at the doors to check IDs. If you want to go – go. I am.

  4. larry kurtz

    Yeah, Cory: wear a gun, you know everybody else will be packing.

  5. Bill Fleming

    Vintage Orwell, huh?

  6. Fred, Governor Daugaard and the legislature seem to wear the ‘last in the nation’ status as a badge of honor. Almost to the point of contempt for anyone involved in the education of our children.

    Why should we think that in an environment where what the Governor dictates what legislators can say that these show hearings can accomplish anything?

    What are you doing to make these meetings meaningful?

    What is your wish for education funding in the state?

    Are you troubled by the lack of media access to the meetings? Or are you just bending over for the Governor’s office in keeping citizens in the dark?

    Stand up Fred! Make the meetings open to the public and the media! The Governor’s wish for closed media hearings should make you, the media and everyone in South Dakota uncomfortable.

    Don’t let your silence speak volumes! Everyone who was elected to represent the people of South Dakota should be outraged!

  7. Richard Schriever

    1974 is the year that a SD state legal decision was reached that determined public meetings may be recorded without restriction. Daugaard sounds as if he doesn’t respect that legal right.

  8. Fred Deutsch

    Jana, thank you for your honest questions. I’ll do my best to answer you.

    First, I 100% disagree with you characterization of the ‘last in the nation’ status as a badge of honor. That’s just plain wrong – verging on silly wrong.

    There are many legislators that are currently working to increase teacher pay. That effort is happening right now. In fact, I can all but guarantee you the legislature will see at least one well-thought-out-bill to increase average teacher pay in SD during the next session. I can’t say if it will be part of the recommendations to come out of the task force or if it will be a separate measure.

    What I do know is the task force agenda is open – the meetings will flow from the information and input of the audience – not from the Governor. The stuff Cory is spouting off is a side show.

    I don’t serve on the task force but plan to attend as many meetings in as many locations as I can. I believe part of my job is to listen to what the people want.

    I hope you attend.

  9. Larry Kurtz posted:

    There’s something I’ve never seen before: an Associated Press story that mentions creation science without misrepresenting it.

  10. Fred I’m afraid I have to disagree with you. I think Jana was right. The Governor does wear the ‘last in the nation’ status as a badge of honor. If he cared he’d actually do something to improved teacher pay and he’s talk about education more than once in the state of the state address.
    As far as legislators working to increase teacher pay I’ll believe it when I see it. Hopefully it’ll be a bill that will pass and not be voted down.
    Considering what Republicans have done with education over the years I’m a bit skeptical.

  11. Hey, Fred! How come you didn’t draw task force duty, with all your education experience?

    I agree that the main focus of the task force should be funding competitive and morally acceptable teacher pay. However, I disagree with the characterization of a discussion of open government as a “side show.” Open government is a separate issue, but, as Donald agrees, it’s important in its own right.

    A proposal to raise teacher pay—are we talking a straight-up, no-strings rectification of South Dakota’s generations of neglect of teacher pay, or are we talking some Trojan horse to re-introduce merit pay or some other further whackage of teachers?

  12. Thanks Fred. I just don’t see any evidence that the Governor is embarrassed by our last in the nation status or any evidence that the legislature is nothing more than his “puppetburo.”

    Nothing, or very little at the most, happens in Pierre without the Governor directing the actions of the legislature.

  13. Jon Holmdal

    The Governor has gotten a little too used to BACK ROOM EXECUTIVE SESSION GOVERNMENT! But I suppose since most things have gotten so corrupt and inept it has become the only way he can serve it to the public.

  14. Kathy Tyler

    Representative Deutsch made a very similar comment at the Milbank candidates’ forum during the 2014 campaign. He stated that he was ‘working with leadership’ to improve funding for education. There was also the caveat that there would be no tax increase. See how well that worked out.
    Two years ago I was on an education task force; we were told that some districts were afraid to remove bad teachers because they didn’t know if they could fill that spot. I repeated that comment to one of the current taskforce members. The response: “I don’t believe you.” That same person touted being a supporter of education during the campaign as so many Republicans do; but what is said and what is done are two very different things.

  15. Boosting teacher pay without raising taxes? Out of what magic hat do we pull that policy? Or are we just going to consolidate all the schools into virtual learning centers, pay 50 teachers in video studios in Pierre, and hire room monitors at remote sites at minimum wage?

    Education task force two years ago, education task force this summer… talk talk talk. What will it take to move South Dakota voters to the critical frustration to vote the current Legislature out and elect people dedicated to acknowledging and fixing problems?

    “I don’t believe you”—sounds like a legislator dedicated to ideology over evidence.

  16. Roger Cornelius

    We get the same story time after time from the SDGOP, “we care about our children’s future and support their education”.
    Except when it comes time to do just that, the state will find other ways to spend state money on anything but education and higher teacher. If the SDGOP were sincere in their comments we wouldn’t be having this discussion.
    The point of Cory’s thread is the limitations placed on the media coverage of these events, not whether of not the public is invited.
    Why does the SDGOP fear the 4the estate in South Dakota, for the most part republicans control the media.

  17. Donald Pay

    The first question the task force should deal with is this: how much tax money is being spent on this task force, and why shouldn’t that money go toward funding education?

    The second question is this: Is it really necessary to spend the money to cart legislators and government officials on junkets around the state, pay their per diem, all the costs to rent meeting rooms, etc., when there are far more pressing needs and/or better ways to obtain information?

    Some will probably say education in South Dakota is inefficient, but nearly all children need a high-touch approach. Getting information over a screen for kids is not that effective without a teacher there to help.

    But I have to ask, are these legislators and bureaucrats children? What sort of horse and buggy operation is this task force? Most of the information needed to understand education in South Dakota is on-line, or in umpteen previous reports. It’s very easy to compare South Dakota to other states though various education websites. I can do that from right here in Madison, WI. People can communicate their concerns through e-mail.

    It’s time to really question what we’re doing in government. Yes, children need a high-touch learning environment, and that means some inefficiency is always going to be a part of an education system. But what is the excuse for Legislators, the Governor and bureaucrats? Are they children?