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Daugaard Names Two Teachers Among 13 New Task Force Appointees

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.

LuAnn Lindskov
LuAnn Lindskov
Steve O'Brien
Steve O’Brien

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?


  1. Travis Wicks 2015-06-13 12:33

    Why am I not surprised by this? It’s like having a 26 member task force on women’s reproductive rights and only having two women, 7 ob/gyn’s, and 4 hospital administrators on it.

  2. Dave 2015-06-13 13:37

    Wonder how long before we see a FakeBluRTFTS account pop up on Twitter to offer some needed commentary on what’s going on …

  3. grudznick 2015-06-13 15:55

    Mr. H, I believe by the time this is over you will agree that my name is better. BluRTF.

    Also I am glad you know that those two teachers are very very good and worth 3 of their peers. They are the sort of teachers we all are trying to get more money for them to have.

  4. caheidelberger Post author | 2015-06-13 17:35

    Read Don’s link. Read Don’s link.

  5. grudznick 2015-06-13 18:29

    What is this SD policy project group? Insaner than most, I am sure.

  6. grudznick 2015-06-13 18:33

    People say the SDBPP has no credibility. Can I be on your task force too or may I start my own?

  7. owen 2015-06-13 19:15

    good link Donald

  8. caheidelberger Post author | 2015-06-13 19:39

    Apt analogy, Travis!

    David, I say nuts to fake Twitter accounts. Let’s create a real fake task force. Let’s get 26 (hmm… do we need that many?) smart, experienced people together, review the evidence available, and write a proposal for legislators to consider.

    Grudz, all shadow task force documents will be public, including the attendance list for each meeting. We will require members to contribute data and evidence, not just one-liners and blog tropes.

  9. Brett Schlekeway 2015-06-13 20:45

    What Don ‘s chart clearly shows is that the state does not pull its weight in school funding. But from talking with a legislator what they are going to be looking for is how much more do we need and where does the money come from?

    So this is what I am going to look for when the brtf comes to Sioux Falls, are they actually looking for answers to these questions.

    Also as you look at your proposed task force lets see what answers we can come up with. My guess is if we say income tax they will not even begin to consider it. So I think we need to consider other alternatives and try to get as many hard numbers as we can find with a proposal.

  10. Deb Geelsdottir 2015-06-13 22:14

    That is a Great Link Don. Chart #4 made my eyes pop out! Shame on SD Republicans.

  11. MOSES 2015-06-13 22:35

    Should have said he picks two low paid teachers.

  12. Travis Wicks 2015-06-14 01:14

    That link you gave, Donald, sums up the problem perfectly. The state does not allocate the proper amount of funding to school districts, and the data proves it.

    I will need to have this printed off and ready to share Tuesday at the BluRTF meeting in Sioux Falls.

  13. John 2015-06-14 07:25

    Where is the representation from the tribes? Or private schools?

  14. caheidelberger Post author | 2015-06-14 07:32

    Good question on tribal reps, John! I don’t know the background of everyone on the panel, but I don’t think anyone on this panel is Indian. Rep. Heinert comes from Mission and may bring some tribal perspective, but that appears to be it.

    I’m not sure private school representation is as much of a priority. We don’t fund them; what would they have to add to the conversation?

  15. caheidelberger Post author | 2015-06-14 09:35

    Brett, Travis, let us know how the Sioux Falls meeting goes! I welcome any notes, pix, etc. that you can provide.

    We all seem to understand that we need more resources. The harder question is where those resources will come from. If I were chairing the Blue Ribbon panel, I’d say agenda item #1 is figuring out what policies we need (higher pay, different teacher training, more foreign language, end of state tests…) to recruit and retain more good teachers. Item #2 is figuring out how much money we need to make our policies happen. Item #3 (i.e., the last thing we discuss) is the actual funding mechanism. If we start the conversation with, “Anything we do will cost money, and no one wants to pay an income tax, so we can’t get new money,” we will shut out a lot of useful conversation. Funding mechanism comes last. If we first establish consensus that teachers deserve more respect and support and that K-12 should be a real priority, not something to which the Legislature pays lip service before getting mired in anti-intellectual curriculum squabbles and gun bills, then the hard question of how to find more funds becomes easier.

  16. Donald Pay 2015-06-14 10:50

    Glad to be of service, but this is really nothing new. The data are in countless statistical tables from the 1990s forward. The difference, I think, is the graphic presentation because its just so clear what the problem is. It’s always been the problem: South Dakota state government is a deadbeat.

  17. caheidelberger Post author | 2015-06-14 10:55

    Yup: Pierre bears responsibility for choking K-12 funding. Always has. Will anyone on the Blue Ribbon panel speak that truth?

  18. tmg 2015-06-14 17:45

    Someone on here made a comment about bringing in quality teachers. We do not have a teaching shortage. We’re do have quality teachers. There are two issues that are the real problem. #1 your population is and will always be concentrated in two areas of the state. There is nothing to attract people to living in the boondocks. #2 tenure. There are also many teachers out there who stick it thru the three years, get their tenure and then their performance falls. In every other profession a person keeps their job based on their performance. Why should it be any different in education. These are the reasons our teachers either leave the state of leave the profession. If we want people to stay and take the small town jobs give them incentives. Make it a place they will consider. Make teachers accountable for their teaching. I know many of you are fuming right now. Obviously we would have to come up with a clear and fair criteria. But honestly, these are areas that need to be revamped.

  19. MD 2015-06-14 19:40

    How about we include some recent high school graduates? Ideally someone that has completed a semester or two of college and made some friends from Minnesota. When they compare notes and realize that their friends from Minnesota came into college with enough credits for a Sophomore or Junior standing, they are going to really start questioning their education in South Dakota.

  20. MJL 2015-06-14 22:57

    tmg- I would like you to try and provide evidence about how continuing contracts (what you call tenure) reduce performance. Multiple studies have shown that more experience equals better performance when teaching in a classroom.

    Cory- Knowing Steve, he will be a strong voice for all teachers and even if they do try to shut him down, he will crush them like they were nothing more than a novice policy debater without any note cards. I do like your idea of compiling additional data that will be overlooked by the panel discussions.

  21. caheidelberger Post author | 2015-06-15 07:33

    TMB, saying there is no teacher shortage because things are fine in Sioux Falls and Rapid City is like saying there’s no statewide drought because Milbank and Brookings got lots of rain.

    As for tenure, see Lee Schoenbeck’s comment in 2012: there is no tenure. Schools can get rid of any bad teacher they want, at any time. If administrators and school boards do their job, you’ll have teachers keeping their jobs because of performance. And as MJL says, we have no evidence that continuing contract hurts education. Continuing contract is actually a basic labor protection that makes education better.

    You speak of giving teachers incentives to move to small towns. O.K. Raising teacher pay $10K or $20K would be a heck of an incentive. I agree completely that small towns may struggle to offer the basic amenities (choice of grocery stores and other retail, job opportunities for professional spouses, recreation…). The money you might spend in economic development grants and other public investments as indirect incentives for teacher recruitment will probably do much more to attract teachers if you just hand the money to the teachers themselves.

    And to get that money, I’m willing to trade. TMG, what do you think of this offer: Raise teacher pay to $60K, and I’ll let you suspend continuing contract for one year?

  22. caheidelberger Post author | 2015-06-15 07:38

    MD: recent high school graduates? That’s not a bad idea. Get the folks who have most recently experienced the K-12 system and seen how their preparation stacks up against their peers from other states at university. Would you be o.k. with focusing on recruiting a couple of recent grads who are in teacher education programs and looking ahead at getting teaching jobs?

  23. MD 2015-06-15 10:38

    That would seem to make more sense, when we discuss how to come up with community solutions in my graduate classes, we always talk about bringing in all of the stakeholders otherwise you are missing out on valuable perspectives (and run a higher risk of failure). Those that do not traditionally have a voice often bring up big gaps, and most of the people on the task force list would already have easy access to share their opinions and likely already have.
    When you look at the list of people, are we really considering all of the opinions of the entire spectrum? Yes, we are offering a place for public input and educator input, but I doubt you will be getting many students, recent HS graduates, or recent grad teachers that are going to be willing to put in their input in a venue like that. I know I would be hesitant.
    So yes, there is a definite need for either student involvement either in the form of committee involvement or in the form of focus groups. That is going to give you solid information about what needs were identified by those that just went through the process and those that may be looking to enter into the field. They may even be able to identify ways to bring value to education without the cost.

  24. caheidelberger Post author | 2015-06-15 11:27

    MD, would those younger participants be any less hesitant to speak up as members of a formal task force? How do we encourage their participation in whatever format we have? Is the focus group the best way to do it, allowing those younger people to speak up among a group of their peers, with just a facilitator, not an authority figure?

  25. MD 2015-06-15 13:22

    I would lean towards the small focus group idea, get some small groups together, do some icebreakers and then have a facilitated conversation, type up a transcript, then analyze for themes.

    Over the past year, Ive been working with some public health units in ND assisting them with addressing some of their service gaps. We went to each unit, interviewed an administrator, an employee, and a board member and kept to a loose set of questions. We heard a wide variety of concerns, ideas, and criticisms from each. While most issues boiled down to money, human resources, and time we were able to work with these units to bring some meaningful progress in the absence of support from the state. We used previously untapped state resources (especially in the university), technology, etc to address where the state was falling short. We were able to work towards addressing these issues from all stakeholders while still working with the same resources. While it was often frustrating, it was also rewarding.

    The best part, it only cost the state ~$30k in one-time funding and it gave two graduate students decent jobs, amazing experience, and a great look at all that ND has to offer. Think of what we could have done with a similar, scaled up model in South Dakota? Interview a teacher, administrator, board member, community member, and student in each district (as a focus group or separately), I bet we would get a wealth of perspectives, information, and potential solutions above and beyond what our legislative study process will give us.

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