If we Democrats and über-conservative Republicans could get along, we could tag-team Governor Daugaard into a tizzy. At the same time that he was penning a specious, politically charged response to liberal criticism of his do-nothing blame-shifting on the potential loss of federal health insurance subsidies, he was also defending his Blue Ribbon Task Force on Teachers and Students (BluRTFTS) from conservative criticism.
Rep. Elizabeth May (R-27/Kyle) is steamed that the Governor’s task force isn’t listening to legislators, particularly the conservative legislators who want to turn the BluRTFTS public meetings into more symposia on Common Core. Governor Daugaard responded Wednesday on WNAX that telling legislators to pipe down and let the people speak is perfectly fine at this early stage of the task force; they’ll have plenty of time later to dominate the discussion:
Legislators, they’ll have 40 days to talk all day every day when the Session gets together, but we won’t be able to hear from all those people….
If some legislators felt that this was an opportunity for them to offer their attitudes about education, that was a misunderstanding of this process. There’ll be certainly lots of opportunity for legislators to enter the debate when the task force comes forth with policy proposals, and indeed the task force itself is made up of many legislators [Governor Dennis Daugaard, interview, “Daugaard Defends Blue Ribbon Task Force Process,” WNAX Radio, 2015.06.11].
The Governor’s point is well-taken: Legislators get exclusive control of the conversation once Session begins. Even during the interim meetings, legislators dictate who and what is heard and who or what is ignored…
…or do they? Consider the 2014 the Government Operations and Audit Committee, which stamped its approval on the Governor’s preferred narrative of the GOED/EB-5 scandal. Consider the laments of Senators Phil Jensen (R-32/Rapid City) and Brock Greenfield (R-2/Clark) that the Legislature is “weak by choice” before the dictates of the executive branch. Maybe May bemoans the appearance that, unsatisfied with his influence over legislators during Session, the Governor is now bossing Legislators around outside of Session. Maybe May reminds us that our part-time citizen legislators are full-time citizens, holding as much stake in their local school districts as any other parent or taxpayer not wearing a legislator’s badge.
I agree with the Governor that legislators may do better to listen during this information-gathering stage than talk. I agree with Rep. Sly that anyone, legislator or civilian, driving the Blue Ribbon discussion toward Common Core is barking up the wrong tree. But I still don’t think that Rep. May and a couple other steamed-up legislators will walk into any of the remaining initial stakeholder meetings and run over a hundred members of the public divided into twenty discussion groups (which we may more accurately describe as the World Café method, not Delphi method that Bob Ellis thinks is all about mind control).
I welcome legislators to sit next to their constituents at the next Blue Ribbon meetings (Sioux Falls Tuesday, Yankton Wednesday!). Let them float their usual excuses for inaction, and see how well those excuses go over in face-to-face conversations with citizens who want to solve our K-12 problems.