Senate Appropriations approved House Bill 1182, Governor Dennis Daugaard’s extra half-ercentage point sales tax to fund competitive teacher pay, in a 7–2 vote this morning. The two nays came from two Republican Sioux Falls Senators, David Omdahl from District 11 and Phyllis Heineman from District 13.
After his boorishness toward kids and colleagues this Session, I expect no progressive thinking from Senator Omdahl. But surely former teacher Senator Heineman can do better than her stuck-in-the-mud House colleague and former teacher Rep. Lana Greenfield and see more sense in funding new revenue to ensure ongoing teacher pay?
Nope. In committee questions this morning, Senator Phyllis Heineman signaled her desire for changes to continuing contract, despite testimony in committee today that schools already have the mechanisms they need to remove bad teachers. Senator Heineman said, “I can’t say to the taxpayers, ‘I’m sorry but the only solution is to look to your budgets.’” She promises we will find the dollars, but more than three months after the Blue Ribbon K-12 task force released its final report and let everyone know the magnitude of funding we need to make a meaningful difference in our teacher pay, Senator Heineman hasn’t bothered to look through the budget and identify specific places where we can find the money she thinks is out there.
Senator Heineman is promulgating the rump Republican fantasy that we can cut other programs and fund ongoing, difference-making teacher raises without raising anyone’s tax bill. Senator Heineman’s looming Republican primary opponent David Bergan doesn’t think we need to wait any longer:
I wholeheartedly support the Governor’s plan for increasing teacher pay. South Dakota’s low salaries have been disrespecting our good teachers for many years. I am disappointed that Senator Heineman, a former teacher herself, doesn’t seem to understand the urgency of our teacher shortage. We aren’t going to find $79 million/year in the couch cushions [David Bergan, e-mail to Dakota Free Press, 2016.02.25].
District 13, it appears that, even among Republican candidates, you have a choice between an incumbent who’s standing with extreme right-wing Republicans in obstructing the Governor’s teacher-pay plan and a practical newcomer who’s ready to solve South Dakota’s teacher shortage now.