School starts in Sioux Falls on Tuesday, September 5. Two years ago, 52% of Sioux Falls voters approved pushing that start date to the day after Labor Day, the way God, if there were one, would intend. Some students and parents expressed concern that the later start date would hurt student performance on Advanced Placement tests by cutting their August prep time.
Those concerns didn’t pan out last year, and they didn’t pan out this year. According to data presented to the Sioux Falls school board by superintendent Brian Maher Monday, more Sioux Falls students took AP exams in the 2016–2017 school year, and Sioux Falls students’s AP pass rate beat the state average.
In the last year of the August start date, the Sioux Falls AP pass rate was 67.0%. In the first year of the September start date, the pass rate rose to 70.6%. In the second year of the September start date, with a three-year surge in number AP tests taken, the pass rate rose to 71.5%, compared to a statewide rate of 70% and a nationwide rate of 60%.
The report also notes that the Sioux Falls School District gives its high schools extra money for getting students to take and pass AP tests. Each building gets $65 per student who passes an AP exam. That’s $113,360 for the school year just ended.
I won’t claim that starting school later improves AP test scores. But two years of rising AP scores in Sioux Falls show that students are able to perform just as well on AP exams whether we drag them back to school in August or let them finish summer right and return to the classroom in September.
I noted last week that the job description for the new “director of research, innovation, and accountability” was posted in May 2017. Megan Raposa helps fill in the timeline for the creation and filling of this position:
[Superintendent Brian] Maher began developing the position over a year ago, hoping to create a clear connection between all of the district’s data and research efforts and classrooms.
…It wasn’t until after Morrison announced he wasn’t running for re-election that he told Maher he was interested in the new director position, though he did express interest in applying before the position was formally posted on May 29.
The position was advertised on the district’s web page and on the Associated School Boards of South Dakota website from May 29 to June 13, meaning Morrison would have applied while still serving on the school board, though he wasn’t formally offered the position until July 17 [Megan Raposa, “School Board to Vote Monday on Six-Figure Contract for Former Board Member,” that Sioux Falls paper, updated 2017.08.10].
The University of South Dakota’s Law School Relocation Task Force held its inaugural meeting yesterday in Vermillion to talk about whether the state should move its only law school from the USD campus to Sioux Falls.
CFO Gestring says declining enrollment will hurt the law school’s budget:
Gestring shared pro forma financial data with the task force. Her numbers are based on a total law school enrollment of 182, 156 and 155 law students at USD in fiscal years 2018, 2019 and 2020 respectively.
“What we’ve used here is roughly 50 students per class,” she said.
Her calculations, when comparing the law school’s revenue to expenses those three years, show its budget to be in the red by nearly $186,000 in FY2018. In FY2019, that deficit increases to $655,000. By FY2020, the law school budget is expected to be nearly $658,000 in the red. Between FY 18 and FY19, Gestring calculates the law school could see a decrease in tuition of approximately $300,000.
Senator, former judge, USD law graduate, and Vermillion resident Arthur Rusch says declining enrollment transcends location and offers an uncomfortable reminder that a past Regental effort to boost enrollment by moving classrooms to Sioux Falls failed:
“…the decline in enrollment is a nationwide problem; it’s not a Vermillion problem, so why would we think that moving the location of the law school would necessarily be a solution?” he asked. “My understanding from the people that I’ve talked to is that the decline in law school enrollment nationwide is because there are other jobs available.
“Is there any real guarantee that moving the law school to Sioux Falls would increase the enrollment?” Rusch asked. “Recent publicity has shown that The University Center’s enrollment in Sioux Falls is half of what they anticipated, so would necessarily moving the law school solve that problem?” [David Lias, “Residents: Keep Law School in Vermillion,” Yankton Press & Dakotan, 2017.08.07].
USD law graduate and Vermillion City Council president Kelsey Collier-Wise says moving the law school to our biggest city won’t help South Dakota meet its most pressing legal workforce need, the lack of attorneys in our smaller towns:
“The purpose of the law school and why it is supported by South Dakota taxpayers is to make sure that everyone in our state has access to vital legal services,” she said. “Sioux Falls and Rapid City are not experiencing a shortage of attorneys that we are seeing in the rest of the state … I can’t imagine a potential student who wouldn’t even spend three years in Vermillion, which is too urban to qualify for Project Rural Practice, would somehow end up in Lemmon or Bison or one of the other communities that really needs legal services” [Lias, “Residents…,” 2017.08.07].
Rusch, Collier-Wise, and the other Vermillion residents who spoke yesterday frame a healthy conservative policy-debate perspective: unless the proponents of change can prove that moving from the USD campus in tranquil Vermillion to bustling Sioux Falls will solve our most significant problems, that other nationwide factors wouldn’t drown out any meager enrollment uptick from such a costly move, and that the harms to USD as an institution and the Vermillion economy wouldn’t outweigh the minor benefits of giving Sioux Falls one more advantage (120 students and 20 professors matter a lot more in a town of 11,000 than a city of 175,000), we should stick with the status quo.
The Sioux Falls School District has created a new administrative position—”Director of Research, Innovation & Accountability“—to save money and filled it with freshly resigned school board member, former board president, and former Citibank chief financial officer Doug Morrison. Mr. Ehrisman asks some questions about when this new position was dreamed up:
While I don’t disagree that this is a very good idea, I wonder when the negotiations began? I also wonder if this was Morrison’s idea? What did he know before he decided to NOT run again and retire from CitiBank?
The new director’s job description includes defining “clear priorities and indicators of performance” and overseeing “the development of assessments, data analyzation [sic], and result reporting.” I’ll be curious to see whether the indicators of the new director’s performance are all banky/businessy—can he identify and justify program cuts that equal or exceed his new salary?—or if he’ll be evaluated on more qualitative and humanitarian measures of improving education.
“Occupational licensing hinders the American workforce,” he told the crowd gathered before the American Legislative Exchange Council. “Almost one in three jobs requires an occupational license.”
…A Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis study estimates that licensing requirements are keeping 2 million people out of jobs, a number equivalent to 1.3 percent of the labor force, Acosta said. He also cited another study from Brookings that puts lost employment opportunities at closer to 3 million.
Even when occupational regulation makes sense, state and local governments could do more to standardize and simplify requirements so licenses will work across multiple state lines without re-certification, Acosta argued [Aldo Svaldi, “Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta, Speaking in Denver, Argues for Reduced Job Licensing Requirements,” Denver Post, 2017.07.21].
South Dakota requires numerous professions and occupations to obtain licenses to participate in the free market. See—South Dakota may not tax your income, but it makes you pay a fee before you can even start earning income.
So maybe it won’t just be us cranky liberals protesting Secretary Acosta’s appearance in Sioux Falls Thursday. Maybe Governor Daugaard will share some grumbles about this Trump Administration push to reduce local control and reduce South Dakota’s revenue stream this time from plumbers and barbers.
Trump delivered a combative law-and-order speech in the New York suburb Friday, calling gang members “animals” and praising law enforcement for being “rough.”
Speaking before law enforcement officers, Trump praised the aggressive tactics of immigration officers and suggested that police shouldn’t protect the heads of handcuffed suspects being put in the back of a car.
“When you see these thugs being thrown into the back of a paddy wagon. You see them thrown in rough. I said, ‘Please don’t be too nice,'” Trump said to applause, referring to officers shielding prisoners’ heads with their hands.
In response to those remarks, Sioux Falls Police Chief Matt Burns released this statement:
“The comments by the President regarding police use of force do not reflect the views or the policy of the Sioux Falls Police Department in regards to the handling or treatment of persons in our custody. We treat all persons with respect regardless of our reason for contact with them” [“Sioux Falls Police Chief Responds to Trump’s Use of Force Comments,” KSFY, 2017.07.30]
The City of Sioux Falls fined West Fargo-based Service Oil Inc. $300 last year for not maintaining its billboard on its otherwise vacant property at I-90 and North Cliff. Last November, Service Oil brought its sign up to code:
This anti-municipal bird-flipping apparently took eight months to make the news (as if there isn’t enough other news happening this month to occupy our attention). Sioux Falls zoning enforcement chief Shawna Goldammer sounds unfazed:
“It is compliant with the current ordinances for being maintained, and it does advertise a property for sale and for lease,” says Goldammer.
…“We have to be aware of free speech and the first amendment rights,” says Goldammer. “We can’t dictate what the sign says only the signs size and location” [Sydney Kern, “SF Man Questions Meaning Behind Oil Company Sign,” KDLT, 2017.07.18].
Cheers to Sioux Falls for supporting the unpleasant side of the First Amendment and not making a fuss that it would likely lose.
The First Amendment, like all amendments, is not absolute. However, a casual search of state law suggests that our only statewide ban on “profanity” is SDCL 54-4-77, which prohibits debt collectors from “using obscene or profane language.” The words “profanity” and “profane” appear nowhere else in statute. We do have administrative rules explicitly prohibiting profane language during visits to state inmates, in interactions with horse- or greyhound-racing officials or employees or representatives of the racing commission, or when working as a pharmacy technician.
Other statutes restrict “obscene” language (e.g., SDCL 22-24-55 and SDCL 22-24-56 restricting smut on school and library computers SDCL 49-31-32 on obscene phone calls, SDCL 49-31-32.1 banning dial-a-porn), but SDCL 22-23-27(11) defines “obscene” as “appeal[ing] to the prurient interest,” and expressing disgust toward the City of Sioux Falls with this particular phrase hardly rouses “a shameful or morbid interest in nudity, sex, or excretion”… at least no more than South Dacola’s reaction, which is to LHFAO.
Several days ago, KELO-TV reported that people were “flocking” to sign a petition to refer the Sioux Falls school board’s $50-million property tax opt-out to a public vote. Evidently the “flock” was a little thin: the Friday deadline for the referendum petition came and went with anti-tax petitioner Lora Hubbel turning in only a few dozen signatures. Dakota War Collegereports that Hubbel had 314 signatures while SD Learn, a second group irate about spending money to educate Sioux Falls kids, collected “over 3,500 signatures,” still well short of the 5,374 necessary to put the opt-out to a vote.
In my quest for morning lemonade, perhaps we can take this petition failure in Sioux Falls as a good political sign. Opt-out opposition was led by prominent figures of the hard right. Once again, the hard right failed to mount a successful public campaign. Perhaps this failure signals that if Jack Heyd pulls the trigger and starts circulating the anti-transgender initiative petition that he’s been sitting on since April, he won’t find as many eager conservative signers as he might think are out there willing to flog the culture war on the 2018 ballot.
Dana Ferguson tracks down an excellent example of how the crime victims’ bill of rights, the astroturf vanity amendment that California billionaire Henry T. Nicholas spent a small fortune convincing South Dakotans to enact last November, is doing fouling up South Dakota law and business. Specifically, landlords are having a harder time keeping their tenants safe from criminal renters:
The effort to shield victims’ privacy has barred some landlords from accessing details necessary to determine whether tenants have violated a key provision of the Crime Free Multi-Housing Agreement.
“That lack of information is what causes the real headache,” said Ashley Lipp, a regional manager for Lloyd Cos. “Now we have to ask, ‘Is this something that could be a violation of our Crime Free addendum?’ And it’s very difficult to know.”
Details about the location of a police dispatch, including specific address and in some cases apartment number, were provided in call logs ahead of the passage of Marsy’s Law. Landlords could track police calls to their apartment buildings and follow up with tenants about the interactions as needed.
But that changed in November. The specific address of a call was swapped for a block address or nearby intersection where victims opt for their personal details to be concealed.
That has led to additional work for some landlords in determining whether the concerns that prompted the calls came from their tenants or neighbors on the block.
Dale has converted his front room into the only official, secure signing station for his petition:
My family and I have turned our front room into “signing central”. Inside, we have a “signing station” consisting of an iPad and custom table with the (very large) petition fitting onto it perfectly for signing. With a single volunteer on site, in a predictable environment out of the rain with Internet access where the petitions can be protected, we can take 150 signatures per day. The station can be replicated up-to 8 times in the room we have available, increasing throughput proportionately. Lead time to build out the additional capacity is one afternoon. I have a local database being used (air-gapped) that keeps a master list of signers that will be delivered to the SOS indicating each verified signer, the petition number they signed, and the position on the petition they signed. We will have 100% accuracy in the signatures we turn-in to the SOS should we convince enough people to come to Spearfish and have a legitimate legalization experience. Therefore, we have the capacity to take all the signatures we need in a couple of weeks. However, this could create logistics problems, and I would love to spread that out over the ~120 days we have remaining [John Dale, e-mail to Dakota Free Press, 2017.07.06].