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Daugaard Defends Hushing Legislators at Public Meetings on Education

Governor Dennis Daugaard
“Hush, Liz, I’m listening to the people.” Really, Dennis?

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.


  1. Fred Deutsch 2015-06-12 11:43

    Hey, just my opinion, but I think one of the essential qualities of a good legislator is to be a good listener. My plan is to attend the SF, Wtn and Aberdeen sessions and – “just listen.” I want to hear what the people have to say.

  2. larry kurtz 2015-06-12 12:20

    No doubt one of the recommendations of the task force will be to adopt the Rick Scott/Florida strategy by striking the words climate, genocide, and evolution from South Dakota’s curricula.

  3. caheidelberger Post author | 2015-06-12 14:41

    Fred, I’d be glad to be at your table in Watertown. I’d even invite your observations to inform the discussion.

  4. Fred Deutsch 2015-06-12 15:07

    You saw the list of educators added to the task force today?

  5. caheidelberger Post author | 2015-06-12 15:21

    No! What? Where? Who? (I haven’t checked the mail for my invitation yet. ; – ) )

  6. Fred Deutsch 2015-06-12 16:32

    The new task force members are:

    • Dave Davis, Rapid City – member of the Rapid City Area School District Board of Education
    • Dr. Becky Guffin, Aberdeen – superintendent of Aberdeen School District
    • Vicki Harmdierks, Mitchell – principal of Gertie Belle Rogers Elementary School
    • LuAnn Lindskov, Timber Lake – math and science teacher at Timber Lake High School and 2013 South Dakota Teacher of the Year
    • Dr. Brian Maher, Sioux Falls – incoming superintendent of Sioux Falls School District
    • DeLon Mork, Madison
    • Steven O’Brien, Watertown – English teacher at Watertown High School
    • Erik Person, Burke – superintendent of Burke School District
    • Beth Pietila, Yankton
    • Dr. Michael Rush, Pierre – incoming executive director of SD Board of Regents
    • Jim Scull, Rapid City
    • Eric Stroeder, Mobridge – member of Mobridge School District Board of Education and incoming president of Associated School Boards of South Dakota
    • Kevin Tetzlaff, Brookings

  7. Joan Brown 2015-06-12 17:23

    It shocks me that the incoming Sioux Falls Superintendent would be included. He hasn’t even began to get his feet wet in Sioux Falls.

  8. caheidelberger Post author | 2015-06-12 18:03

    I’ll work on DeLon during my next visit to Madison.

    The appointment of Maher is interesting. It suggests what SuperSweet got me thinking the other day: perhaps we can use some out-state perspective to help us see what we’re missing (although I think it’s pretty obvious: at least $10K per teacher).

  9. caheidelberger Post author | 2015-06-12 18:13

    How many teachers? Steve O’Brien is worth three teachers; Lindskov… wait… is that it? Two teachers?

    Tetzlaff, Scull, Pietila, Mork… if I’m looking at the right résumés, that’s four businesspeople.

    A panel on education has twice as many businesspeople as teachers?

    Four K-12 administrators, plus the new Regental admin, and two board members.

    Seven people in administration, vs. two classroom teachers?

    Before I start swearing, I’d like some confirmation that I’m counting correctly.

  10. grudznick 2015-06-12 19:39

    Weighted heavy in fat cat administrators indeed. I bet you an extra sausage patty that this study will say that more money needs to go to administrators and more reserved parking spots are needed instead of saying that the good teachers need to get some extra money based on how good they are.

  11. Donald Pay 2015-06-12 21:26

    Nebraska, where Maher was superintendent before Sioux Falls, is as bad as South Dakota in its reliance on local revenue to fund education. It also has an education funding formula that is mostly geared toward property tax relief, rather than meeting education needs. It was passed in the 1990s, like South Dakota’s formula, and it has resulted in an increasingly failing system of education. Don’t expect Maher to come to the task force with much importable wisdom from south of the border, other than this: dump the education funding formula and require the state to stop being a deadbeat when it comes to funding.

  12. Rod Hall 2015-06-13 14:14

    I hope the Mitchell Elementary Principal is free to speak honestly about her knowledge of education and its funding rather than being a mouth piece for Joe Graves, her boss.

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