Senate President Pro-Tem Brock Greenfield (R-2/Clark) staged a coup against a coup Tuesday. In the middle of the morning session of the Legislature’s Executive Board meeting on Tuesday morning, Senator Greenfield moved to order that the ad hoc education subcommittee of the Government Operations and Audit Committee cease and desist its rushed issuance of a Request for Proposals for third-party review of the Department of Education.
Evidently a variety of people pushed a lot of Senator Greenfield’s buttons, and he was fed up with what he perceived as an effort to knock the legs out from under Secretary of Education Ben Jones. Senator Greenfield said he’d been lobbied by at least ten people to support the RFP. That seemed to Greenfield to be an awful lot of political pressure for a still not clearly defined project. Senator Greenfield spoke of being “dumbfounded” and “flabbergasted” that the item would be placed on the E-Board Tuesday agenda, then to hear from Chairman and Speaker Steven Haugaard (R-10/Sioux Falls) an hour into the meeting that the E-Board would not take up the issue and would instead let the subcommittee continue its work “in the shadows.” He expressed deep skepticism about how the subcommittee could even issue an RFP and expect to get useful proposals from vendors when there was no promise that any proposals would receive funding. He noted that the subcommittee had said it wanted to pick a third-party reviewer and launch the review by January 27, which would leave little time for the Legislature to appropriate any necessary funds.
Senator Greenfield got backup from Senator Troy Heinert (D-26/Mission), who said the GOAC subcommittee seemed to be subverting the proper channels, which in this case would be the House and Senate Education committees. Don’t rush ahead, said Sneator Heinert; wait for the Education Committees to have a chance to decide what if anything should be done.
At one point, Senator Greenfield noted that Secretary Jones had entered the committee room, and he asked to hear from the Secretary whether he welcomed the subcommittee’s collaboration (that’s how subcommittee chair and E-Board member Representation Sue Peterson, R-13*/Sioux Falls, protrayed her ploy) or whether he perceived it as kneecapping. Chairman Haugaard at first refused to allow Secretary Jones to speak, but later Senator Greenfield pressed the point by noting that Secretary Jones had clearly shaken his head no to Greenfield’s question about whether the subcommittee was helping and shaken his head yes to Greenfield’s suggestion that the subcommitee was kneecapping him. Haugaard said he had initially denied Jones the floor in the interest of time, but when he finally relented and allowed Jones to speak, Jones said the subcommitee’s push is “not helpful.”
Greenfield moved to order the GOAC subcommittee to cease and desist until the Legislature could take this matter up in regular Session. Haugaard fought that motion, saying the E-Board lacks authority to tell GOAC what to do. Representative Jamie Smith (D-15/Sioux Falls) offered a substitute motion stating that the E-Board “does not support issuing RFP or approving funds for same.” Greenfield seconded that substitution, and the motion carried 8–7, with Rep. Smith joining Greenfield and the other six Senators on the E-Board.
Whether the GOAC subcommittee will press on with its coup over the Department of Education remains uncertain. But one line from Rep. Peterson’s often vague arguments during the hearing supports the idea that eliminating the Department of Education underlies her thinking: she said that if the Department isn’t looking at serious enforcement of standards and driving performance in the schools, “do we need a Department of Ed?”
Senator Greenfield is right to wonder why so many people would directly lobby him for something that has not yet been defined. Rep. Peterson even denied that the subcommitee planned to look into the issues that Bob Mercer (who was in the subcommittee room Monday and the E-Board room Tuesday) reported they had discussed Monday, leaving more uncertainty about the subcommitee’s intended scope.
Whatever’s happening, Senator Greenfield is mad, and vowed with remarkable passion that there won’t be any money approved for the subcommittee’s scheme if he has anything to say about it.
The E-Board’s remarkable discussion of the GOAC subcommitee coup started around 1:28:00 in the SDPB audio and continued for an hour and twenty minutes. My notes are below for your enjoyment.
Greenfield: 10-12 contacts from people asking him to support something, now unclear; don’t think it’s “intention of subcommittee to just come alongside Sec. Jones and lend a helping a hand”; asked how committee will proceed without funding.
Peterson: subcmte met Monday morning, adopted scope of work to put some definition in it. “Our desire is to work collaboratively.” Governor has said she is unimpressed with the performance measures, we want to help with that
Greenfield: We don’t know what recommendations the DOE is going to bring
- “I’m just dumbfounded”… was told to vote for this, then told Tues no vote, we’d just let them go; cmte to issue an RFP, even though we didn’t know if there would be funding
- “all assessments are not created equally”; ACT shows good scores, other credible assessment tools show good work
- we’re “taking the legs out” from under a new Sec of Ed
- lobbied, concerted effort to back this, “just trust us”, “vote for it then you can find out what’s in it”
Haugaard: not being asked to vote on anything right now
Peterson: that’s why we didn’t want to come today, so we want to go get info first
- Not trying to cut legs out from under anyone, just coming alongside, fulfilling our const. mandate
- assessments: every department is asked to come to GOAC w performance measures; DOE itself submitted the alarming measures; we’re offering them chance to bring new measures
- They brought us same measures as last four years, showed no plan for diff results; we’re not satisfied
- BOE standards mtg two weeks ago got a lot more info than what was given to GOAC
- 2019 ESEA plan submits same info to feds for accountability
- DOE strategic planning process has been delayed; we want to work with DOE on that plan
Bolin: do indiv depts get to set own stds?
Peterson: yes, every three years re-evaluate, we do a third of the depts each year.
Haugaard: subcmte asking for clarification of metrics, within GOAC authority; DOE just provided cut-and-paste from previous years
Bolin: not here to defend process of setting stds, huge mistake by DOE; these stds, these tests are terrible measure since students have no motivation to do well, “extremely foolish” std, tests have “limited validity”
- Alleging any fraud, embezzlement, abuse at DOE like GEAR UP or EB-5?
Bolin: so issue is that test scores are bad, so we need to go thru DOE to increase test scores?
Peterson: fundamental goal is to have DOE “come with a plan, to have performance measures that are meaningful”
- Is student poor or not? If not, how measure better?
- DOE offers no plan for change?
- Don’t want to artificially inflate or deflate scores, just want to make sure students get a good education.
- DOE not involved in direct hiring of teachers, but does provide leadership; there should be some performance measure of how students are doing
- “if that’s not what we’re looking at, do we need a Department of Ed?”
Bolin: fundamentally challenge the notion that the DOE provides direction and leadership; that comes from local school and building level; numerous studies show building principles and small districts and teachers bring about results and performance; concept that DOE has some “deep seated directional focus for schools” is a “fallacy”
Haugaard: sounds to me like you’re both on the same page, both looking for “delivery of the appropriate academic effort” [what baloney!]
- reason for ed is to have stable govt, must ensure that people are presented with a basis of morality and academic abilities and intelligence; thus approp for this body to make sure that’s happening
- agree w Bolin that it happens primarily at local level; one of most important jobs in state is to be on school board
- if we’re going to maintain a DOE, we want it to have good finger on pulse of what’s happening in state
Heinert (by phone): need to bring a couple things to light
- I understand GOAC’s role to make sure we’re spending money properly, but we’re cutting the Education cmtes out! They can question DOE, also have ability to listen to educators.
- to submit RFP for third-party review when all I’ve heard is we want review of performance measures isn’t really GOAC’s role; that’s the ed cmtes of SDLeg
- we don’t even know scope of RFP!
- agree w Bolin that we need to look at def of success
- judging school on ten-day timeframe test is bad; lots of other things are going on, community should be able to say what’s happening
- goal of ed: educate the populace, yes for govt, but also want educated populace for everything else in functioning society
- don’t support road we’re headed down
- let issues come to Ed cmtes, determine whether we need statute or just DOE action
Haugaard: that’s consistent with my view; each cmte needs to be more engaged
- GOAC also includes operations
Rep. Johnson: try to assuage Heinert’s and everyone else’s concerns
- concern expressed at last mtg that we are allocating funds w no idea what cost of RFP would be; subcmte now proposes put forward RFP (not hiring yet); submissions to RFPs will provide info to ed cmtes, nothing inconsistent w Heinert’s concerns
Qualm: motion I made at last mtg was premature, shouldn’t have done it, but subcmte is headed in right direction
- Everybody here wants best education possible for kids, just some disagreement on how to get there.
- All superintendents in my district hate what’s in place right now
- Smarter Balanced test isn’t a good measure
- Supts say loacl control is a fallacy, “we’re dictated what we need to do.”
- I think the world of Dr. Jones, we can assist him w third-party review
Sen Greenfield: that contradicts everything I’ve come to learn about curriculum and where those decisions are made; decisions made at local level are paramount
- “it boggles the mind”: plea this a.m. was to fund this study, now we’re being told we’re just putting out an RFP
- reads article by Mercer saying subcmte wants review to start as soon as possible: third-party review would start Jan 27
- Somehow we’ll seek, approve on that timeframe?
- We don’t know who gives authority to spend the money; will we force expense onto department? Bring fast-track approp bill?
- Also looking at private schools and home schools? How does that fit in scope of public education?
- People in alternative instr don’t want state meddling in their business.
- Crossing over into alt inst, home school: not acceptable. “We don’t know what we’re doing, people!“
- Lobbied at least ten times in past couple weeks, must be really important to someone, now seeing it go back under?
- asks Sec. Jones (who has entered the room) if he’s calling for subcmte help, is this a kneecapping
Haugaard: I’m not asking the Sec to speak to the issue right now
Peterson: RFP would not include alt/home inst; topic may have come up in discussion of who might be qualified to submit RFPs or get contract.
- talked about whether experience in private schools would help for “well-rounded experience”
- talked about importance of Native American population, important to have that voice at the table
- study itself won’t delve into alt inst
Langer: “I have several concerns, too. I’m not in favor of an RFP at this time.”
- Not sold on bringing outside person at cost of taxpayers
- there may be changes, but should defer to Sec, give him chance to run dept
- Lean evals have been effective
Peterson: Lean process is third-party review
- tried to get info on ballpark cost, looked at depts, many do this on their own and welcome it
- Lean process looks at efficiency of dept processes; GOAC looking at content of performance measures
- we didn’t say we want a diff test; DOE supports its tests
Sen White: good dialogue, Bolin hit it on the nail on keeping study local
- we have a diverse educational state, lots of things no other state has [?]; to hire an RFP probably wouldn’t address that [hard to tell what he’s saying]
- how many of you have visited your school
- today’s schools very diff
- can’t understand going beyond supts and teachers addressing issues
- “we have a good thing going”… just need fine-tuning
- stds from last admin, now is time to review them, have review by folks who undestand what’s happening in our state.
Rep. Johnson: central question, root of things: is GOAC operating w/in its stds/procedures/rules by creating subcmte to create RFP? If they are following rules, do we have auth to stop them?
Rep Smith: agree with White
- SDLeg: lack of respect given to professional educators
- We claim we know how to do it “We went to school; we can run one!”
- I taught; my wife still teaches, whole family has been in ed, it gets harder each year.
- GOAC trying to figure out how to better meet needs of students, “would hope that is their goal,” their only goal; if they’re after anything else, you lose me.
- teachers/admins need to be respected
- SDLeg needs to provide funding and help them do their job
Sen Stalzer: follow on White’s comments
- attended stds cmte mtg when adopted math stds, was absolute opponent of Common Core, made that clear at 20 mtgs around state
- only one person who proposed the stds was HS teacher; most were K-6; vowed to BOR Rush I’d never again to vote for remedial math funding; Rush told me his people said stds were adequate
- New stds haven’t had time to be reflected in tests
- Don’t trust these stds and Smarter Balanced
- But we’re in a new admin looking at things set up by old admin, let them get through process and bring proposals in 2020 Session
- Spoke w new Sec, they are working on it
Haugaard: no disagreement about support for teachers; there is concern that we are burdening local schools and teachers with tasks they don’t need; Sec Jones is looking to address those issues; GOAC subcmte concerns indep from this cmte, what they do isn’t up to this cmte
Greenfield: if GOAC issues RFPs and chooses to accept one, drafts contract, who ok’s that expenditure?
Haugaard: us, Joint Approps, full SDLeg
Greenfield: E-Board doesn’t function during Session, so up to us to kick can over to Approps; flabbergasted that something we weren’t going to talk about is now this convo; Jones is in here and we aren’t asking for his input?! “Doesn’t seem right, doesn’t seem transparent”
- “At this point, I will not endorse spending one cent on this study.”
- nonverbals being communicated: as I asked Sec if he viewed this as helpful, he shook his head no, when I asked if taking him out at knees, he shook his head yes
- ask E-Board to make motion to deny funding
Haugaard: allow Sec to come forward; just wanted to move discussion along to advance thru agenda
Sec Jones: timing is concerning to me, will be rolling out strategic plan in dept tomorrow (Wed)
- Schopp retired, Kierkegaard stayed only few months, interim, now me from interim to permanent
- GOAC subcmte is big question mark over anything we do, “not helpful in that regard”
Peterson: “our intent is to work collaboratively with the department”, spent three hours on phone w Sec
- happy that he’s full-time sec, not our intent to do anything that wouldn’t be helpful
- has big job, big ship to turn
- I do think what we’re doing is helpful, const charges us to do so.
- would have welcomed info that has come out since we announced our plan
- [so maybe our threat has been helpful after all]
- we want to move forward collaboratively
- it’s all about what’s best for our kids; a year in life of child is huge, must act now
Sen Ewing: brief testimony of Sec tells me to go along w vice-chair, move to not recognize any expenditure toward third-party study
Haugaard: no request at this point, e-board likely won’t meet again, moot
Greenfield: move direct GOAC subcmte cease and desist until we can review their RFP
Peterson POO! We have received legal clarification from code counsel, subcmte operates at direction of GOAC; interim rules don’t provide for interference
Rep Gosch: completely understand both sides; procedurally, limiting action of other body is problem; proposal will be thoroughly vetted by regular process, will get Sec’s plan; be careful where we tread as E-Board authority; no action to be taken here
Haugaard: no motion for expenditures; GOAC has assigned subcmte to act; beyond scope of this board to tell them they can’t function
Greenfield: GOAC exists as subsidiary of E-Board. We have every right to tell them we’re not going to spend a cent on what’s being requested until we know more about what’s being requested. We had previous motion to spend $150K, we knocked that down. Until 10 a.m. today, I thought we were going to discuss this, then got told they’d just do their thing “in the shadows” and that we’d just be told what they’d do later “tail wagging the dog”, should be other way around. I don’t have enough info to proceed with this line of investigation.
Haugaard: still no request for funds, RFP doesn’t put out any money
- not in shadows; these are all open mtgs
Gosch: once Session starts, E-Board isn’t a board, SDLeg can take it up anyway; our vote here just shows political weight-throwing; premature to do anything until we see DOE proposal
Peterson: RFP will get the info Greenfield wants
Haugaard: no need for a motion since there’s not a request for funding
Greenfield: I stated a motion
Heinert: why would anyone submit a plan to an RFP knowing that it wouldn’t be funded? Agree w Greenfield: let’s let process happen in the cmte it’s supposed to play out in; can’t imagine we’ll get good RFPs if they know no money is coming
Greenfield “can’t quite rekindle the magic” but move cease and desist order to GOAC subcmte on RFP process until we have more info on which to make decisison
Haugaard: cite auth for E-Board to tell GOAC subcmte not to act?
Greenfield: GOAC operates under auspices of E-Board. any funding requested must be approved by E-board, Approps, and full SDLeg; can’t give them tacit approval to issue RFP w presumption that there will be funds available for program we don’t know anything about
- implicit in our role as governing body of Legislature in interim
- implied request for funds, we have auth
Haugaard: NSCL, CSG could provide similar info at no cost
- pause… Code Counsel: GOAC has indep auth under statute; motion outside scope of E-Board auth
- discussion was originally put off because we didn’t have specifics on what subcmte was looking for
Greenfield: then I don’t understand why GOAC comes to us w report that we have to approve of
- there’s been no money approved, and there won’t be if I have anything to say about it, so you’d better find a freebie
- we’re trying to effect ed policy by virtue of a subcmte
- I don’t like any of the stds or fed reqs, but this process won’t help, is strike against Sec Jones
Haugaard: not that type of an attack on anyone; common interest is good education for kids; GOAC saw poorly developed metrics; Sec has acknowledged that
Smith: subst motion: move E-Board does not support issuing RFP or approving funds for same
Rep. Johnson: if motion has no authority, prefer it be called resolution not action
Haugaard: not a motion
Smith, Bolin, Ewing, Langer, Stalzer, White, Heinert, Greenfield aye; 8-7
*Correction 19:12 CST: In my morning haste, I misidentified Rep. Peterson’s home district. She represents District 13, not District 14. I regret the error.