Governor Dennis Daugaard has named the other half of his Blue Ribbon Task Force on Teachers and Students. Out of the thirteen new appointees joining the ten legislators and three executive branch personnel, two are teachers.
Four of the new Blue Ribboneers are businesspeople and, I think, parents of school age children. Seven administer schools. Two are teachers.
Both of those teachers—English teacher Steve O’Brien of Watertown High School and LuAnn Lindskov of Timber Lake High School—teach really, really well. O’Brien is vice-president of the South Dakota Education Association and has defended teachers in Legislative testimony. LuAnn Lindskov digs subatomic physics and was named state Teacher of the Year in October 2013 (as noted in this SDEA newsletter which also discusses the proposals for school funding offered by the 2013 summer study group which apparently didn’t amount to anything to forestall the need for this summer’s task force on school funding).
But they are two active teachers out of 26 members empaneled to talk about teachers. They get no back-up from elementary teachers, middle school teachers, math teachers (partners with O’Brien and English teachers in meeting the Common Core standards), social studies teachers (don’t expect the Governor to put a government teacher on a public policy panel), special ed teachers (a growing field placing new demands on every teacher), industrial tech teachers (central to the state’s economic development strategy), music teachers, art teachers, or any other of South Dakota’s nine thousand-some front-line educators.
Who else isn’t on this panel?
- Students (Blue Ribbon Task Force on Teachers and Students).
- Teachers of teachers—experts from our teacher-training colleges.
- Equal numbers of women. Each half of the panel includes four out of thirteen women. For those hoping for more women’s perspectives on education, the panel is co-chaired by female legislators who can perhaps amplify the voice of the three-tenths female minority.
The majority non-teacher appointees include two newcomers to South Dakota. Brian Maher begins superintending the Sioux Falls School District on July 1. He has no direct experience with South Dakota’s crushingly low teacher salaries. Maher comes from Nebraska, whose funding situation has some dismaying parallels with ours. Michael Rush is coming from Idaho to executively direct the Board of Regents. He taught once, but now owes his livelihood to the good graces of the state of South Dakota. Both men could bring some useful outside perspective to South Dakota’s funding problems (though the Governor would have done better to pick an ex-pat like commenter SuperSweet, who worked in South Dakota K-12 for 34 years before finishing his career with seven years in Minnesota). However, both men have a lot of work to do to get up to speed with their new jobs, and like many new employees, they may hesitate to “insult” their new patrons by attacking the status quo with bold proposals for change.
Of the stakeholders represented on the Blue Ribbon Task Force on Teachers and Students, the Governor has minimized the voice of teachers. He does not want to hear much from the professionals who sacrifice a house to work here. He does not want to hear much from the professionals who have seen their share of South Dakota’s robust GDP decrease 20% over the last eleven years. He does not want to hear much from the teachers who have lived for 30 years with the practical, kitchen-table challenges of bringing home the lowest teacher pay in the nation.
Given that the Governor may well have rigged his Blue Ribbon panel, would anyone be interested in empaneling a shadow task force? Bring a few teachers and other experts together, collaborate via wiki and e-mail, gather testimony from teachers who’ve stayed and teachers who’ve left South Dakota, then put together formal policy recommendations to submit to the Legislature by November 1?