Thursday, January 30, 2014

What Happened to Local Control?

Today Mr. Heidelberger talked about the silliness of SB112.  The bill co-sponsered by the likes of Don and Jenna Haggar, Lederman, and District 6 Senator Ernie Otten (I think he has signed onto every single bill connected with education or discrimination) would allow teachers like me to teach intelligent design.    The brilliance in the bill is the lack of anything substantial in the way it was written.

        FOR AN ACT ENTITLED, An Act to prohibit schools from preventing the instruction of intelligent design.
    Section 1. That chapter 13-33 be amended by adding thereto a NEW SECTION to read as follows:
No school board or school administrator may prohibit a teacher in public or nonpublic school from providing instruction on intelligent design or other related topics.
That is the total extent of the bill.  I thought that schools should have local control.  If a school board decides that intelligent design should not be part of the biology curriculum, then shouldn't they be able to have control over their curriculum?  What if a private school with very fundamental beliefs has a curriculum that pushes evolution only?  This is getting so bad that Pat Powers has resorted to a bit of potty mouth in response to some of the hijinks connected policies like this and those dealing with anti-homsexuality free speech.
“An Act to protect the citizens and businesses of South Dakota regarding speech pertaining to views on sexual orientation and to provide for the defense of such citizens and businesses.” Have we had one lawsuit in South Dakota arising from someone being sued for expressing their religious beliefs on the subject of sexual orientation? Even the threat of one
If we’re going to perseverate on a topic and introduce loads of legislation on it, why don’t we focus on bringing new and better jobs to South Dakota? Or, reducing the cost of college tuition? Or how about measures that reduce government red tape or the tax burden on it’s citizenry?...
Put more bluntly, we can protect the sanctity and definition of marriage without being dicks about it. 
This bill is like many of the bills that have been offered by the GOP and the likes of Ernie Otten that has fallen into the special category named by Mr. Powers. 

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

SB 67 Has Been Pulled

Three hours ago it appears that Ernie Otten's SB 67 bill has been pulled from the docket.  Representative Steve Hickey posted on the Twitter
SB67 has been pulled by it's sponsors meaning it will not proceed through the legislative process. Waters are too muddy. SB66 is a go.

If by muddy waters he meant that the bill allowed for pure and simple discrimination in the public and private businesses, he was correct.

SB66 is a bill I would be willing to support since it does protect religious institutions from being forced to perform ceremonies if it is against the church's or religious leader's beliefs. I think that a Catholic church should have the right to refuse to marry any couple, straight or gay, if they don't happen to be Catholic. If a Methodist church choose to marry a same-sex couple, then they have that right.

From my reading of the bill, it is limited to church and church officials and specific to the marriage issue
    Section 3. No member of the clergy nor lay official of any church or religion may be required to solemnize any marriage, provide services, accommodations, facilities, goods, or privileges for a purpose related to the solemnization, formation, or celebration of any marriage, or treat any marriage as valid for any purpose if such action would cause any such entity or individual to violate their sincerely held religious beliefs.
If there is a loophole built into the bill, I hope someone would point it out to me.  

My guess is that the muddied waters of SB 67 actually comes from the backlash that the bill had received and that the GOP wanted to put out that fire.  Even the "journalist" Pat Powers pointed out that the Democratic party was going to make this a clear election issue.  The a Democratic e-mail emerged showing that a petition against the bill had already received over 3500 signatures.  It is clear that the GOP is running scared from the issue.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Ernie Otten Not Republican Enough?

Ernie Otten has been busy this year with lots of bills related to the Common Core, and it seems that he has gotten into some trouble from it because he doesn't hate it enough.  Bob Mercer reports that a speaker against the Common Core, calling it a path toward socialism and communism, claims that Ernie Otten can't be trusted.

Last week the state Senate failed to pass legislation that would have created a panel to evaluate Common Core and deliver a report to the Legislature and the governor by Dec. 1, 2015. 
The bill’s sponsor, Sen. Ernie Otten, R-Tea, said the evaluation was a way for all sides to present information about Common Core. 
The vote was 18-16 in favor, but the bill needed a two-thirds majority of 24 ayes because it contained an appropriation for the panel’s expenses. 
Thompson, speaking to a reporter Monday, said the panel was a ruse intended to endorse Common Core.
Otten, a first-term legislator, was one of the Senate’s most conservative members last year. Thompson said his allegiance can’t be trusted now, because he’s been appointed chairman of the Senate Taxation Committee for the 2014 session.
So Daugaard is a Communist, many of the Republicans that supported Common Core in 2010 are Communists, now it seems that Ernie Otten can not be trusted as not being a Communist.  When will people see the dangers of extreme rhetoric and how it will come back to bite you?

Monday, January 27, 2014

Ernie Otten Fail at Defending SB 67

Senator Otten gets into a bit of a back and forth on his Facebook page over SB67, the bill that would make it okay to discriminate against a person because you think your religion encourages it.  The discussion starts off in an uncivil manner and Mr. Otten responds in a more civil manner that allows for an actual back and forth.  I won't put the first comment, but do want to share the rest of the discussion.

    • Ernie Otten for South Dakota I’m not forcing or imposing an agenda on anyone. What it does do, however, is protect any South Dakotan from anyone trying to impose his or her radical views upon them by way of strong-arm tactics using legal & financial threats.
    • Dennis Lyons You sidestepped the point. What are you going to do when someone denies you or someone you know a service based on their religious beliefs?
    • Ernie Otten for South Dakota I'm free to go elsewhere.
    • Dennis Lyons You are okay with, say, Hobby Lobby suddenly demanding that all their employees take an oath to some Protestant church and then firing any Catholic or atheist that doesn't? And what makes a religious belief so special? Do you support someone's right to deny services based on racial beliefs? What if someone used their religious beliefs to justify racism? This isn't a hypothetical question. Religions (including Christianity) have used or misused their texts to justify segregation, subjugation and slavery based on race or creed rather regularly.
    • Ernie Otten for South Dakota You set up strawman arguments to mislead.
      You are okay with the extremist radical activists & Progressive activist judges in other states punishing those Christians who hold a deeply-held Biblical belief, thereby forcing them into financial ruin rather
       than allowing them to live in peace with their moral convictions. It’s become a way for the extremists on the left to push their radical agenda of intolerance of someone else's conscience.
    • Dennis Lyons What straw man? There is an undeniable historical precedent and the language of your bill leaves this as a wide open possibility.

While I appreciate the reference to the strawman fallacy, and the argument does move into the strawman area, there is still a valid question that Mr. Otten fails to address.  The bill does allow for me to deny service based on my religious beliefs which will open the door to all sorts of blatant bigotry.  If you look at the bill, section 3 makes discrimination acceptable.  
Section 3. No person or any personal business may be required to provide services, accommodations, facilities, goods, or privileges for a purpose related to the solemnization, formation, or celebration of any marriage, or treat any marriage as valid for any purpose if such action would cause any such person or personal business to violate the person's sincerely held religious beliefs.
Despite calling out the other person's strawman with his own strawman.  This just goes to show the thinking pattern of this Senator.  I do not think that the Supreme Court of the United States radical and activist judges.  The other person was correct is saying that I could hold a deeply-held biblical belief that Christians should not be served in my store since I am Hindu or Muslim.  If that happened, I am sure Ernie Otten and his Tea Party would be up in arms.  Lines like, "It’s become a way for the extremists on the left to push their radical agenda of intolerance of someone else's conscience." makes the intentions clear:  It is okay for me to push my views on someone, but not okay for them to have an extreme opposing view.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Ernie Otten and Isaac Latterrell Abandon Reason and Evidence to Score Political Points

Recently Senator Ernie Otten and Representative Isaac Latterell from abandoned the evidence that was gathered by a bi-partisan committee to study the problems of education in getting and keeping teachers in school districts for a wide variety of fields of studies and especially in more rural schools.  The committee decided not to push for any specific bills, but instead to just get the Representatives and Senators to agree that there is actually a problem and that there are several reasons including low teacher pay for that shortage.  The House saw some opposition over the vote with Isaac Latterell voting with his Tea party friends Don and Jenna Haggar.   Part of the reasoning given by Don Haggar was he just couldn't believe that pay had anything to do with the teacher problem; however, the non-binding resolution passed the house with a large majority of 49-18 vote.  

So the resolution was on to the Senate with support by such Republicans as Senator Larry Tidemann.  The bill failed on a vote of 15-19 with Ernie Otten against it and not bothering to give a speech on why it should be rejected.  He did take time to report his vote on his Facebook page to those watching, but still no explanation.  I did ask him for his justification and will let you know if I hear a response.  

Not every Republican has taken a leave of his or her senses.
“We need to move forward and do our part,” Sen. Larry Tidemann, the school funding committee’s Vice Chair, said during his testimony in front of the Senate in support of the resolution. “We do have a teacher shortage. We can do nothing or we can recognize there is a problem.”

Sen. Tidemann noted testimony during the committee meetings identified a lack of applicants for teaching positions. Sen. Chuck Welke, also a committee member, echoed the statement.

“We heard story after story from schools of all sizes…struggling to find teachers,” Sen. Welke said.
Some of the Republican Senators that voted for the resolution and sound reasoning and evidence were Begalka, Hunhoff (Jean), Rampelberg, Rhoden, Soholt, Solano, Tieszen, and Van Gerpen.  

UPDATE:  As promised, here is Mr. Ernie Otten's response to my question.
Ernie Otten for South Dakota I'm supportive of the Governor's proposed 3% going into education. School boards at the local level set the wages for educators & staff, not the legislature.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Isaac Latterell Ignores the Real Issues Facing District 6 and South Dakota

We all know that Isaac Latterell chooses to ignore the evidence that getting and keeping teachers in South Dakota is a serious problem.  It seems that his main driving force for serving District 6 is to take on the federal government.  

Mr. Latterell posts on his website about what he took from the State of the State address from Governor Daugaard.  To summarize he concludes that the economy is great, but we need to watch out what the Federal Reserve and the Federal Government is doing.

But there is another constraint that reality places on South Dakota, and rightly so: we can’t print money. Or to put it another way, diluting money–your money. Even the word used to describe the result (“inflation”) is deceptive, because it implies that the products and services are becoming more valuable, when in fact it’s your paycheck and your savings becoming less valuable. 
The primary beneficiaries of inflation are the Federal Reserve Banks. The Fed is a non-governmental organization of banks authorized by congress with no audit level oversight by anyone, including congress. That’s why inflation is referred to as the “hidden tax” which actually hurts the poor and lower income the most, and keeps them from achieving economic security. That’s why I co-sponsored a resolution this year calling for an audit of the Fed....
He continues about the evils of the Federal Reserve and leads into joining the Convention of States because that is what everyone in District 6 is worried about.

While I may not agree with Ernie Otten and Herman Otten on much in politics, at least they try to focus on some issues directly impacting the citizens that voted them to office.  Maybe Mr. Latterell should focus on trying to help Tea High School with more funding and ways to get out of stick buildings...
More space is badly needed, district officials said, because enrollment has steadily climbed and buildings are reaching capacity. Several “stick buildings,” which don’t have running water, are being used to manage growing class sizes. 
Maybe pushing for a resolution to get the needed funding for the Lewis and Clark water system.  How about better funding for our districts to help them with increasing costs of road construction, infrastructure development, and to fight crime.  I won't go into the working poor in his district that would benefit from expansion of Medicaid or all the people in our district connected with medical services and schools that would benefit from an increase in funding for education or healthcare.  

I hope Mr. Latterell can figure what really matters to District 6 and focus on that and not Tea Party issues.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Isaac Latterell Must Think He Is a Teacher, But That Will Not Deal With the Teacher Shortage

Isaac Latterell, Representative of District 6, was one of 18 house Representatives to vote against a resolution that recognizes the teacher shortage that is hitting South Dakota.  Cory Heidelberger does a nice job of going into details about the vote.  Mr. Latterell chooses to vote with BFF Jenna Haggar instead of listening to the facts of a bi-partisan panel that investigated the problem.  

The reason he might not think there is a shortage is that he feels he is an accomplished "teacher" of government.  Back in October Mr. Latterell with Jenna Haggar shares this video about the basic structure of the republic form of government.  


Here are a few friendly teacher tips:

1. Don't lecture for 49 minutes.  You should have a variety of activities to help keep the class engaged.

2. Teaching is about encouraging students to develop his or her own thoughts, not to make political statements.  

3. Avoid words like "peons" (around 9 minutes in).  This just makes the students giggle.

4. Avoid comparing other forms of government to slavery.  (9:30 minutes in) You may like drawing chains, but it is a poor analogy that may offend members in your school district and students you are teaching.

5. I wouldn't take stands on the government shut down.  (20 minutes in) Your statement and the way you just shrug it off might be a problem for a student whose mom or dad work with EROS datacenter, a FDA inspector, a member of the National Guard in Sioux Falls, or a rancher that could not get assistance after a horrible, horrible blizzard.

6. By the way, Tim Johnson is also a Senator from South Dakota.  You just mention John Thune.

7. Never a good idea to start lecturing about the teachings of the God or the Bible when teaching a government class in a public school setting.  You may offend the atheist in the class room, the Buddhists, the practitioners of Hinduism, (you get the point).  You are also violating the concept of Separation of church and state.  

I could go on, but hopefully you will take this opportunity to reflect about how you did using the Danielson model and redevelop a new lesson plan explaining how you are meeting the state standards and teaching to all of your student learning styles.  I also expect that you will get this done while attending multiple committee meetings, coaching an activity, staying around to help a student improve from the last unit or make up work missed while on vacation, and working another job to help make your family bills.

Still Missing the Big Issue

As expected Common Core is becoming one of the big issues this year in Pierre with three bills related to the Common Core already in the mix.  The first Senate bill, SB 62, seems to be one that is coming a little late and is repetitive of a process that was already followed.  The main focus of the bill is to establish a committee in Pierre made up of politicians, educators, and parents to study the impact of the Common Core and the Smarter Balanced testing will have on our state.  This bill seems to represent the idea that there had not been any public meetings on the previous standards or the overall implementation of the common core standards in our fair state; however that is not the case:
South Dakota is one step closer to adopting the Common Core State Standards. At its Sept. 28 meeting, the state Board of Education voted to move the Common Core to a public hearing in November.
In fact the DOE has put out a simple power point to clear up some of the misconceptions being dealt with this and other bills with the common core.  In the end I view this bill as harmless and more public hearings on the issue before adopting new standards and hearings about the Smarter Balanced test are never a bad thing.

Then comes along SB 64.  This one is more of a head scratcher.  I get the purpose, to try and slow down implementation of the Common Core, but it would have no impact on the current standards over math and English that have already been adopted.
 Prior to July 1, 2016, the Board of Education may not, pursuant to § 13-3-48, adopt any uniform content standards drafted by a multistate consortium which are intended for adoption in two or more states. However, this section does not apply to content standards whose adoption by the Board of Education was completed and finalized prior to July 1, 2014. 
 Plus adds the word "implemented" after adopted.  So the idea is that the standards might be adopted but not implemented.  More meetings are not a bad thing overall, but this also misses the mark I am going to talk about a little later.

The third is SB 63, or as I like to call it: The Tin Foil Hat Bill.  This bill has several problems with it and tries to stop things that are not happening to my or anyone else's knowledge.  Pat Powers at SD War College points out some of the problems with this bill.

So, how on earth do the sponsors of the measure expect schools to evaluate children for things like autism, dyslexia, ADHD, or a tremendous host of any other of dozens of learning disorders, if they are prevented from “analyzing or evaluating” students? 
And those more serious mental disorders, such as schizophrenia? A lot of times those are noticed & identified by school personnel. 
Unless the legislature is going to direct schools to fire all of their school psychologists, this measure has parts that need some serious reworking.
I wonder if the government teacher will be able to talk about the different political parties and have them do an project that identifies where they may fall on the political spectrum.  I also don't know of any schools surveying students on if they or their parents own a gun.  This kind of bill hurts the chances of real educational reform, because it is too easy to dismiss those "silly" bills.

The biggest problem is that all three of the bills miss the mark.  While they are willing to come after the education department, they fail to find a way to help teachers become better.  They fail to provide anything that will give teachers tools to become better instructors.  Things like focusing on any test results as a judge of schools or teachers do not make our schools better.  Even though Secretary Melody Schoop is willing to fight for the testing,
Testing also will show how students compare with those in other states, Schopp said. The first online tests under Common Core will be given this spring but will be used mainly to determine how the test works and whether districts have sufficient Internet capacity and equipment, she said.
It is never been clear how this will have any effective information that your classroom teacher will be able to use.   It is things like HB 1005 and HB 1002 that look for ways other than testing to improve education.  Push for more meetings with Common Core, but how will that encourage more of our young, talented South Dakotans to enter the teaching profession?  How will is build teacher moral and keep our experienced teachers in the state?  How will it give teachers the tools needed to continue to provide quality education in our state?  That should be the biggest focus in Pierre when it comes helping education.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Evidence of the Governor's Short-Sighted Focus on Businesses Over Education

It is legislative season and it seems that the only thing colder than the weather is Governor Daugaard's feelings toward education.  We know that the Governor loves to talk a good game during election year when it comes to education, but unless he has a serious opponent, you can't expect Daugaard to support education.  No one should believe him when he claims that he is a supporter of our children's education.

South Dakota legislators will need to decide what to do with a huge windfall of funds.  The governor wants to pre-pay $30 million of the unclaimed funds into Building South Dakota.

Now Gov. Daugaard is suggesting legislators consider a new arrangement in the 2014 legislative session. He wants to use $30 million from the unexpectedly large pot of money to “pre-pay” three years of Building South Dakota, or BSD. 
The $30 million is significantly less than the BSD fund would receive otherwise under the law passed last year: Approximately $30 million this year and approximately $35 million each year thereafter. 
Right now there isn’t sufficient demand to use all of that money for economic development and related programs under the BSD umbrella. If legislators accept the deal, the big unknown is what happens when the governor’s $30 million “pre-pay” is gone.
This has many legislatures frustrated and a bit confused as to why the Governor would want to mess with a true bi-partisan law that created the law for Building South Dakota.  Bernie Hunhoff, Democratic Minority Leader in the House, shared his concern on Facebook after Daugaard's announcement:
Some good, some bad in the governor's proposed budget. Finally, an acknowledgment that we need to help schools dig out of the hole caused by 2010 cuts. And paying off debt with one-time dollars to create more ongoing revenue for basic responsibilities like health care and education make sense to me. The bad? I hope we're not already going to mess with the Building South Dakota program that was just agreed to last session. And it's a travesty not to expand Medicaid.
So what seems to be Daugaard's problem with the law?  The fact that it has triggers that would avoid his being able to cut education funding again.
“The Governor's main concern with the funding of BSD last year was that it include a trigger so that funding would be available to fund K-12 at the statutory level, and Medicaid and state salary policy at that same level, before funding BSD. That proposal was included in the final bill,” Venhuizen said. 
It seems that his priorities are set: funding for businesses comes first and funding for education should take a distant back seat.   

One area that the funds could be used is supporting need based aid.  In March South Dakota started funding for need-based aid for students attending post secondary education (last ones to do it in the nation), but those funds were underfunded.  (SURPRISE)
In March, when South Dakota became the last state in the country to offer need-based assistance for postsecondary education, lawmakers appropriated $1.5 million as the principal seed money for the program, and another $200,000 one time to show the effect it would have in this current academic year. 
That $200,000 was predicted to produce 800 to 1,000 scholarships ranging from $500 to $2,000. But unless legislators approve more one-time dollars to get back to that $200,000 level next year, it will have only the interest earned on the market value of the $1.5 million investment to pay for the grants. 
And because the law allows only 4 percent of interest earned to be used for scholarships — any additional interest is to be used to grow the market value of the investment — that means the state probably will see only $60,000 to $75,000 annually in the next few years.
A little bit of investment can really help some students and therefor improve the future of our state.
It also could see higher returns if the Legislature invests more in the principal. Turman expects the South Dakota Student Federation will lobby for such a move this next legislative session. D.J. Smith, executive director of the federation, said the governor hasn't devoted any more for the needs-based scholarship in his preliminary budget. 
Meanwhile, the state required the 18 institutions receiving need-based dollars to match them at a 3-to-1 level. In USD's case, that means it had to provide $86,373 to students based on financial need this school year to get the $28,791. Pier said USD paid that $28,000-plus out almost entirely in $1,000 scholarships. 
 Support for education in South Dakota or making sure big businesses can get more breaks: We know where the Governor stands.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

SD Legislature Catching On?

Bob Mercer had a very somewhat hopeful/ depressing article on December 31 about the plight of teachers.  He reports that HCR 1002 will be introduced in the upcoming legislative session.  This finally recognizes a problem that those of us in the education field have been aware of for quiet some time.
A legislative study committee filed a resolution that concludes “teachers are in short supply in this state, and that school districts of all sizes are now struggling to retain qualified teachers and to fill teacher vacancies.”
He pointed out that it is just not in the field of sciences that this shortage has spread through out many different areas.
The four traditional areas of need – math, science, special education and speech – now also include art, career and technical education, English as a new language, health, music, physical education, social science, language arts and world languages.
That is the depressing part.  It is harder and harder to see where future teachers will come from.  In our debate community, we have noticed this problem for years.  The fear is that when a coach is looking at retiring, there is no one there to replace that coach.  This is especially true in the smaller schools.

The possible good news can be seen in the resolved statements:
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that this Legislature joins school officials in acknowledging that teachers are a highly valued resource in this state, and in exploring tuition reimbursement programs and other programs or policies that could help attract more good people into the teaching profession in South Dakota, and to keep the good teachers that are already here.
I can only hope that something meaningful that shows respect for the teaching field and support for teachers in South Dakota will actually happen and not another Daugaard attempt of trying to bring workers from other places.