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Daugaard Launches Yes on R Campaign Tuesday, June 28, in Sioux Falls

Tech Schools for South Dakota announces that Governor Dennis Daugaard will be joining them to launch their public campaign for Amendment R, the vo-tech governance measure placed on our ballot by our Legislature. According to the ballot question committee’s press release, the Governor and other Amendment R supporters will hold a press conference at 4 p.m. Tuesday, June 28* at Southeast Tech.

Remember that Amendment R, approved last year by the Legislature in House Joint Resolution 1003, doesn’t actually change who runs our vo-techs. It only clarifies that the Board of Regents doesn’t get to run them. Amendment R then affirms that the Legislature gets to decide who runs the vo-techs. Right now, the school boards in Sioux Falls, Watertown, Mitchell, and Rapid City run their local vo-techs. The intent of the vo-techs and their business pals appears to be to get the Legislature to create a new vo-tech governing board separate from the Regents and the K-12 system.

It occurs to me that conservatives should hate this plan: one more state bureaucracy? Maybe Democrats should, too: one more board not elected by the people? We don’t know that the governance system allowed by Amendment R would look like the Regents, run by gubernatorial appointees. A background document distributed by Lake Area Vo-Tech (hold that thought!) assert that Amendment R supporters have “no plans to chance the local administrative control” and may only split the state’s vo-tech oversight from K-12 education with a volunteer board, but the new website advocating for Amendment R suggests supporters want the vo-techs run by the business lobby, not by the “awkward governance structure” of locally elected school boards that apparently limits the vo-techs’ “ability to respond to business demands.”

Whatever governance structure they have in mind, Amendment R’s backers are sure a Yes vote will make everything come up roses:

  • Employers will have an easier time finding specialized workers with the right skillset.
  • More students will have access to programs that bring them immediate employment.
  • Technical institutes and career education programs will have direct access to government decision-makers for support and funding.
  • Amendment R improves communication and support among the career and technical education schools and their governing body.
  • As workers fill positions that would otherwise have remained empty, South Dakota’s economy grows [Tech Schools for South Dakota,, downloaded 2016.06.21].

I still lean Yes on R, but I’m eager to hear from the Governor exactly what sort of governance he envisions arising from R and how that governance will directly alleviate South Dakota’s worker shortage better than a market-based solution like, oh, say, raising wages.

Release that thought: Bonus Campaign Finance Note! The vo-techs want whatever Amendment R will bring. Lake Area advocates for Amendment R on its official website, complete with campaign fundraising letter for the ballot question committee, background, and talking points.

Lake Area expends public funds to maintain its website. SDCL 12-27-20 prohibits the expenditure of public funds to influence election outcomes. This statute does not prohibit public bodies from “presenting factual information solely for the purpose of educating the voters on a ballot question,” but it does make clear that public institutions may not advocate a Yes vote and urge readers to “Show your support now and join the hundreds of other supporters by completing the letter of support or making a donation to Tech Schools for South Dakota.”

*Correction 07:53 CDT: I originally reported the wrong date for the press conference. Governor Daugaard speaks at Southeast on Amendment R on Tuesday, June 28, not today. I regret the error and any unnecessarily rescheduled tea times.


  1. Darin Larson 2016-06-21

    And the payday loan sharks launched their lawsuit against IM 21. Can you imagine the amount of money the loan sharks are making in South Dakota if they are willing to spend millions on the fake 18% constitutional amendment, pushing their unsuccessful attempt in the legislature of negating IM 21, and now challenging IM 21 in court?

    I saw the payday lenders’ favorite gal in the legislature, Kris Langer, in the Jesse James parade in Garretson on Saturday. Support Jeff Barth for District 25 Senate!

  2. mike from iowa 2016-06-21

    Employers will have an easier time finding specialized workers with the right skillset.

    Businesses sure enough ought to be willing to pay student’s tuition then.

  3. B. from South Dakota 2016-06-21

    Cory, I notice each time you write about our technical institutes you insist on using language that hasn’t been in use for 20 years. You refer to the technical institutes as “vo-techs.” You’re a smart fellow so I can only assume that you’re doing it very intentionally to deride the quality or type of education students there are receiving. I have a graduate degree and I’ve never attended a technical institute, but your attitude is frustrating to me. Now I think we can have a reasonable discussion about the role of fine arts or the liberal arts in education at the secondary and postsecondary level; however, what you’re doing isn’t that. It’s using terminology that tends to have a negative connotation, and I think you’re fully aware of that. Amendment R doesn’t use “vocational technical,” Lake Area Technical Institute (LATI) which you refer to as Lake Area Vo-Tech changed its name officially in 1993.

    It’s pretty clear the preferred language is “technical institute” and “career and technical education.” You actually have to go out of your way to use the outdated language. I notice you don’t use Northern Normal and Industrial School, South Dakota State College of Agriculture and Mechanic Arts, or General Beadle State College to refer to our universities by their former names. Even Congress doesn’t use that language and officially uses “career and technical education” at least since 2006 in a bill with sponsors including Ted Kennedy and Hillary Clinton among others. So Cory, do the right thing, do what Ted and Hillary would want you to do…..stop saying “vo-tech.”

  4. caheidelberger Post author | 2016-06-21

    I am not using the term to deride the vo-techs. I believe the vo-techs provide valuable service to South Dakota. I support the vo-techs’ mission and encourage students who want good jobs to consider vo-techs as good options for their post-secondary education. I don’t go out of my way to use the term; I actually hit fewer keys than I would for any other phrase. Call me when “tech inst” gains cachet as the new abbreviation.

  5. caheidelberger Post author | 2016-06-21

    [Hold that thought, Darin—I’m working up a separate post where we can discuss the details of that case.]

  6. Mark Winegar 2016-06-21

    Whatever form of Vo-Tech governance emerges it needs to focus on training students for the job market of the future.

  7. B. from South Dakota 2016-06-21

    Seriously “I actually hit fewer keys” is a reasonable excuse? Clearly the folks at Lake Area Technical Institute thought it was important enough to change their name 20+ years ago. I think that ought to be enough to respect their request on what they’d like to be called. It’s a small thing Cory. Come up with a reason other than “other people do it so I should” and “I’m too lazy to learn something new.” Seems like justifications your students wouldn’t get by with.

  8. SDMomof4 2016-06-21

    B. from South Dakota has already addressed this, so thank you. These are NOT vocational schools. Every single program at our technical colleges is a technical degree, not a vocational degree, and though I’ve mentioned this inaccuracy in the past, Cory continues to use antiquated terminology. I actually work in technical education, and one of the biggest roadblocks to getting kids to consider this path, is their parent’s misconceptions that their child would “only” be earning a vocational degree, when that couldn’t be farther from the truth, in assumption or action. Not a single technical school in our state considers itself a vocational learning resource, so why would you continue to address them as such?

  9. PlanningStudent 2016-06-21

    B. from SoDak, if CAH had used: ‘tech schools’ would you be upset? That would be even less keys to hit and would be an appropriate abbreviation for Lake Area’s current name would it not?

    I would have never in a million years thought CAH, or anyone who uses ‘vo-tech’ was trying to diminish tech schools..!

    CAH, there is an old AG Opinion that said the Muni League could spend what was ultimately City tax dollars to advocate for Cities… Would that give cover to the ‘tech schools’ in this case as well. I think the intent of the law was to prevent the City, or other govt entity, from advocating for a ballot measure in their own election. Like bond issues for a city or school project.

  10. caheidelberger Post author | 2016-06-21

    Funny—living in a household where my wife and I use the word “vocation” frequently and with no negative connotation to describe our own career paths and those of others, I respond with mild bemusement to this side issue of what we are supposed to call vo-techs. I have said what I said, and I have said what my words mean. What we call the vo-techs has no impact on the merits of their governance structure.

    Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to drive my groovy flivver to the general store and get some vittles.

  11. SDMomof4 2016-06-21

    Vocation is not a negative term, and I didn’t suggest it was. It’s also not an accurate representation of what is offered at our technical schools. I don’t see a downside in being accurate, but hey, that’s just me. We’ll have to agree to disagree on this one issue.

  12. PlanningStudent 2016-06-21

    Maybe this is a generational gap thing on this word vocational..? I’m 31 and a half.. I have no preconceived notion of the word vocation or vocational..? All degrees are vocational are they not. You get an education or degree to get a job or vocation. Technical and vocational are synonymous to me for a shorter and more direct education, but not inferior. My graduating class from Pierre had a large cohort go technical, I just knew those guys (and gals) would make money sooner than me and not have to take, and pay for advanced literature and introduction theater.

    If you think the word vocational is a barrier to getting kids to go technical you’re wasting your energy in the wrong area. Maybe a generational ago vocational meant going to typing and cooking school but it doesn’t anymore and kids know better.

  13. caheidelberger Post author | 2016-06-21

    I would happily sponsor legislation to change DSU’s name back to General Beadle State. We can even keep “University.”

    I guess I don’t get what is inaccurate about saying that today’s vo-tech students are learning techincal skills that could lead them to their vocation.

    Planning, the Muni League may have more leeway for such advocacy, but we’re talking here about advocacy coming directly from Lake Area, not from the state association of vo-techs or some such group. Is there precedent allowing the schools themselves to say, “Vote Yes on R”?

  14. Richard Schriever 2016-06-21

    Not everyone attends a school or college or university as part of the pursuit of a “vocation”. I am having a difficult time reconciling the way our educational system has been co-opted from one which taught HOW TO THINK RATIONALLY about some topic or other – to one which “trains people for jobs” (vocational training).

    It (the educational system) seems to have become just another branch of the oligarchy tree. Sad.

  15. grudznick 2016-06-21

    I, for one, have heard in speeches where these schools are called “Technical Institutes” or “TIs”. I would not call the fine Mrs. H by her maiden name when clearly I know her preference is to be called by her married name.

    I think it shows disrespect to call something or someone by a name to which they do not ascribe. And grudznick is nothing if not the politest and most loved conservative with common sense on this here blog.

  16. John Wrede 2016-06-22

    Holy cow……….. Now all of a sudden, it’s important to defend something on the basis of “rhetorical correctness”. And suddenly, use of specific words is essential to describe something that has, itself, changed its own description for no apparent good reason. If it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck, swims like a duck, looks like a duck and produces ducklings, it’s a duck by golly……… And welding is still a skill set and not a professional endeavor and being a line man for the county is still a song by Glenn Campbell……….. We could call these places “Trade Schools” which is what they are but for some reason, sophistication and intellectualism is all important in referring to them as “technical institutes”. That is a matter of intepretation…….. mechanical engineering is a “technical” profession as is writing……..Do these trade schools that produce wage and hour workers teach those technical proficiencies….. Where there is smoke, there is also mirrors and subterfuge. If proponents have to resort to trivial, rhetorical argument in defense of “R” there is something deceptive in the works and deception is “conservatives” middle name.

  17. caheidelberger Post author | 2016-06-22

    Thanks for reminding me of the term “trade school,” John! I think my dad went to “trade school” once upon a time. What is the difference between “trade”, “job”, “vocation”, “profession”, and “career”? Does it matter that much? I’ve used all five of those words interchangeably in describing my work as a teacher: I ply my trade, I got a job, teaching is my vocation, I respect my profession, I make my career in teaching…. What’s the difference?

    And how much difference will governing authority over those workforce schools make?

  18. Skay 2016-06-23

    Quite a discussion on the correct term to use for the technical schools but back to the topic, it appears that LATI has removed the documents from their website that are referenced in this article.

  19. caheidelberger Post author | 2016-06-24

    Skay, you’re right! Those sneaky devils took advantage of our linguistic distraction. I can still grab a shot from Google Cache:

    LATI appears to have deleted the letter of support, backgrounder, and talking points from their server. They still have the amendment text and the letter of support from First Premier… which I’m sure is provided purely to educate voters, not to advocate:

  20. caheidelberger Post author | 2016-06-24

    When I check Google Cache for the talking points, I find this text:

    What we need from our industry partners, is both financial and political support to conduct a media campaign to educate the public on why it is important to our State economy that this amendment pass. We would like a letter of support from your organization and your permission to use your name as a supporter of this amendment and we would ask that you consider financially supporting our campaign. This is a one- time shot at trying to reset the importance of a skilled workforce to our economy and we need everyone aboard on helping us get this done.


    Yup—I think we can see why they’d want that text off their public website.

  21. mike from iowa 2016-06-24

    They changed the name from trade school to voc-tech so they could charge more tuition.

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