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.