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Noem Cuts Slack for Teachers, Convicts, Public Meetings

In Executive Order 2020-14 issued on April 7, Governor Kristi Noem gave a pandemic break to teachers, parolees, and city councils

Make what you will of putting educators, convicts, and local politicians in the same policy bucket.

EO 2020-14 allows K-12 administrators to drop student growth ratings based on student learning objectives. In other words, if our kids’ grades go down during April and May, we’re not going to ding the teachers, who are all struggling mightily to reconfigure their lessons into online modules and get the kids to check their e-mail and submit their assignments without being able to give them skunk eye from the front of the room. That’s absolutely fair: an evaluation based on student performance this year, in the midst of a global pandemic, can’t make any useful comparison to student performance last year, when the only infection we were all suffering from was Trumpitis. (Of course, there’s an argument to be made that evaluating teachers from year to year on the basis of ever-changing student populations in any array of ever-changing community conditions lacks validity….)

EO 2020-14 also cuts parolees some slack on drug tests. Usually if a parolee fails a urinalysis test, the courts and Corrections have to put that using convict back behind bars for some minimum amount of time. But for now, the Governor says if a parolee pees hot, Corrections can apply some other non-incarceratory punishment that “reflects the nature of responding and mitigating to [sic] the emergency in the best interests of the health and safety of the state’s institutions and inmates.” Corrections can also defer the punishment, so don’t think you’re getting off scot free, dopers on parole! Get high now, spend extra nights in jail after the coronavirus has passed.

Finally, EO 2020-14 cuts two breaks for city councils, county commissions, and other public bodies. First, Governor Noem has suspended the law that requires public bodies meeting by teleconference to provide at least one public meeting room where the public can tune in and participate. Thus, if your city council is meeting by Zoom, they don’t have to send someone to City Hall to set up a computer and camera for citizens; you’ll have to log in via your own phone. (No, Travis, you still can’t call a secret meeting and not give citizens the link to watch city council at home.) Second, the Governor has waived the requirement that at least one witness be physically present for the opening of sealed bids for government contracts. But the governments opening bids still have to rig up a teleconference to allow the public to view the bid opening online.

On those government openness points, I get queasy any time the state eases the requirements that our elected officials act in the open… but I get queasier when I think of more people getting coronavirus. Governor Noem isn’t allowing government functions to happen in secret; she’s just suspending a couple of provisions that violate sensible social distancing.


  1. Dave 2020-04-14 16:17

    At this point I don’t think Gov. Noem knows whether she is running offense, defense, or both as she has used both words interchangeably. During her press conference today she used the phrase “the virus tested positive” when referring to the testing of people. Perhaps pedantic of me, but such language bespeaks an unfamiliarity with basic science.

    Granted, she didn’t bargain for coronavirus when she became governor, and she’s changing a tire on a moving vehicle…

    Does anyone know how many signatures it will take on the petition, signatures now numbering some 30,708, to get Gov. Noem to order shelter-in-place?

    There is also a new petition circulating to close SDSU.

  2. Moses6 2020-04-14 17:45

    How does some one like this get elected.

  3. o 2020-04-14 18:25

    Moses6 – she is still pro-life, right?

    There seems to be a pattern of electing ideologues from the right who have the luxury to run under the thesis that government is bad and so it should be decommissioned (usually by de-funding — usually by drying up funding sources). Usually after a few cycles of rocketing deficits, we bring in the “lefties” to clean up the economic mess.

    The pandemic has put that thesis to the immediate test, and that non-essential thesis has been soundly disproven. There are times of national emergency that show big, powerful, HELPFUL government is needed at a moment’s notice. It’s like we’ve never read “The Grasshopper and the Ant.”

  4. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2020-04-14 22:11

    Noem may be botching other policy calls, but the three items in this executive order are reasonable. She’s pretty god suspending rules to make life easier; she’s not as good at coming up with active, creative plans.

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