Rep. Elizabeth May (R-27/Kyle) and other members of the Legislature’s Mugwump Rump are calling for a special session. The KCCR interview with Rep. May Wednesday made it sound like she and her conservative pals might be ready to broaden their horizons and tackle K-12 funding. Alas, in their Thursday press conference, May and friends reverted to form and admitted they just want to get together on August 17 to abolish Common Core:
The legislators — state Sen. Phil Jensen and state Reps. Elizabeth May, Lance Russell, Lynne DiSanto, Chip Campbell and Sam Marty — are criticizing a Blue Ribbon Task Force appointed by Gov. Dennis Daugaard to help resolve the funding crisis that is keeping teacher salaries low.
At a press conference Thursday in Rapid City, the six said they have been shut out of the task force’s deliberations because their priority is eliminating Common Core from South Dakota education standards. Russell also used the conference to propose possible solutions to the fiscal squeeze.
The group wants a special legislative session to discuss Common Core, which South Dakota adopted in 2010 [Emily Niebrugge, “Legislators Aim for Special Session to Eliminate Common Core Education Standards,” Rapid City Journal, 2015.07.10].
I was willing to drive to Pierre during the regular session in February to help my conservative friends argue against Common Core. Legislators heard us out and shot us down. They shot the anti-Common Core bill down again after Rep. Dan Kaiser (R-3/Aberdeen) revived the bill with a smokeout. There is no reason to believe the even more extraordinary measure of convening the Legislature in August for a single-issue discussion would produce any different result.
Nor is there reason to believe that banishing Common Core would do anything to alleviate the teacher shortage. Rep. May likes to say that the burdens of Common Core contribute to driving teachers out of the profession (and I agree that Common Core is nothing but a pain in my classroom keester). However, Rep. Lance Russell (R-30/Hot Springs) says that he’d replace Common Core with the standards we used to have, which shows that Rep. Russell is missing the point. He and May and the other conservatives aren’t really trying to free teachers from the burdens of unnecessary standards and tests imposed by the state; they’re just hollering about Common Core for their own ideological reasons, with no real focus on making teaching more appealing by lifting state mandates.
Blogger and teacher Michael Larson says these Common Core wranglings distracted legislators from discussing K-12 funding last session. A special session on Common Core would be a similar waste of time. Journalist Bob Mercer throws a similar BS flag, not just at May’s special sessioneers, but at the Governor’s Blue Ribbon K-12 panel:
If teacher pay is the problem, in a state that perpetually ranks at the bottom of the national ranking for teacher pay, there is only one way to address the situation, and that’s to find the two-thirds majorities needed in the House and the Senate to approve revenue increases and dedicate the money to paying more to teachers. A special session is window shopping — and so is a Blue Ribbon task force, frankly — without a solution of more tax money in hand [Bob Mercer, “Common Core Opponents Won’t Quit,” Pure Pierre Politics, 2015.07.10].
Rep. May, I don’t want to believe that you and Senator Jensen and Rep. DiSanto are using Common Core as a decoy to forestall the arguably liberal solution of raising taxes and spending more money on teachers, a solution so obvious that even the doggedly objective and restrained Bob Mercer can’t refrain from proposing it. I want to believe that you want to repeal Common Core and boost teacher pay for the good of our teachers and students.
The Legislature should be able to do two things at once, but right now, with respect to K-12 education, I’m not convinced that’s the case. If you’re talking K-12 education and talking about anything other than raising teacher pay, you’re not part of the solution. A special session should be special—i.e., it should do something that the Legislature doesn’t usually do, like talk about a real fiscal remedy to Pierre’s generation-spanning neglect of K-12 funding. We know the remedy, and we could do it in one day. Common Core and other external, top-down standards are an important but mostly separate national issue, not a factor that contributes to the unique market factors causing the teacher shortage that South Dakota must fix.