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Teachers Are Investments in Opportunities for South Dakota Kids

…and democracy is hard work!

My friends at Sioux Falls Democratic Forum, who also pay good money to advertise on this blog, graciously allowed me to hold forth on the competing proposals from Governor Dennis Daugaard and the Democratic Legislative leadership to raise teacher pay.

Bruce Danielson bravely tried to track my frenetic expostulations with his camera, but no video frame can contain my ardor for public education and paying South Dakota teachers what they deserve. You can see Danielson’s video of the entire presentation, plus Q&A afterward, on South Dacola.

Why do I get so animated about the teacher pay debate? It’s not my own financial well-being. It’s what I say around 29:30 as I wrap up my remarks:

I will say this as a teacher and as a friend of teachers: every good adult in the school is an opportunity for kids. Every good adult in that school is an opportunity for a kid to ask a question when they need to, to turn to someone for help when they need to, get a college recommendation, get a job recommendation, to talk about what’s going on at home. Every good adult in the school building is an opportunity for our kids, a resource, a gift, an investment in our kids.

And every teacher that we say goodbye to and take out of the system is a reduction in opportunities for kids.

That’s why you’re going to call SDEA this afternoon, that’s why you’re going to call your legislators, that’s why you’re going to call the Governor, and you’re going to say, “Governor, I appreciate your efforts, but the Democratic plan is better” because it makes us actually competitive in our wage, it taxes people more fairly, and it preserves and protects not just every job we have but every opportunity that our South Dakota kids have right now.

We’ve got the wealth to do that, now let’s have the will to do that. Let’s pass the Democratic plan and make this state work [Cory Allen Heidelberger, speech to Sioux Falls Democratic Forum, Sioux Falls, South Dakota, 2016.01.15].

*     *     *

Cameraman Bruce led off Q&A by saying video lottery was sold to us over twenty years ago as a way to fund education, but the revenues obviously didn’t translate into competitive teacher pay. How can we be sure that any new revenue approved this year will go toward teacher pay?

First, it’s important to note that, after the program, two former legislators reminded me of something we’ve heard from other sources: when South Dakota decided to legalize gambling, there was a lot of talk about using the extra revenue to boost education. However, the education lobby told the Legislature they didn’t want video lottery money earmarked for education. They felt that was just bad fiscal policy.

Barring earmarks or other state mandates, ensuring that any new revenue goes to teacher pay falls on three sets of shoulders:

  1. Legislators will need to sustain the will every year to resist calls from other interests for a piece of the pie and keep appropriating the new money to the K-12 funding formula.
  2. School boards will need to commit to using this new money to solve the major problem that we all agree exists and that we expect this new money to address: the teacher shortage.
  3. Voters will need to make the use of this new revenue in every election from now ’til kingdom come. Voters will have to demand that legislative candidates vow to uphold the 2016 teacher pay deal. Voters will have to demand that their local school board members use the new revenue to keep up with teacher pay targets or give awfully good reasons for shifting that money to other priorities.

As I said to the Forum, democracy is always work. We don’t get to pass a plan this year, then put our feet up and let the plan work all by itself. Any plan we pass in 2016 will require constant care and commitment from legislators, local boards, and the rest of us so we don’t fall back into the mess we’re in now.


  1. grudznick 2016-01-17 21:05

    You are indeed a wiggler, Mr. H. But it is good those people at the luncheon got to hear from an expert in the legislatures such as yourself. They are right now expecting you to carry all their laws to completion in the legislatures.

  2. grudznick 2016-01-17 21:19

    My goodness, that young lady that gave you the teddy bear must be a tiny little thing, you dwarfed her, Mr. H!

  3. SuperSweet 2016-01-17 23:09

    CAH you have stilled all commentator’s with that rousing speech.

  4. grudznick 2016-01-17 23:20

    Look how shaggy Mr. H has become! He almost has a mullet. Not that there’s anything wrong with a good mullet.

  5. caheidelberger Post author | 2016-01-18 06:26

    SuperSweet, I hope those commentators are all busy writing e-mails to their legislators and the Governor!

  6. Cameraman Bruce 2016-01-18 08:18

    It’s always a pleasure to try and capture Cory on video. This video was worth the effort. Thanks Cory!

  7. MD 2016-01-18 09:03

    Well Cory,
    It is 8:57am on a Monday morning, I am dead tired, just getting off working 3 straight 12 hour night shifts. I am enjoying my favorite adult beverages (hey, it was a long weekend), yet you were able to hold my attention for 40 minutes. To that, you should be proud.

    I will admit, I could not watch the video, but I listened. I think you were making the cameraman sick trying to follow you around.

    You are the wind in the sails that the democrats in South Dakota need.

  8. caheidelberger Post author | 2016-01-18 09:40

    MD, thanks for listening! Now get some rest… then forward the video (or maybe strip it and just send the audio—maybe I am a better radio guy!) to your favorite legislators when you wake up!

  9. Madman 2016-01-18 11:26

    I am glad to have a chance to catch this here as I had a meeting that went much later then expected. I was only able to catch final ten minutes or so of your comments.

  10. Paladn 2016-01-18 13:18

    Thanks for making the presentation available. Good Job.

Comments are closed.