Monday, March 30, 2015

Experience Matters in Classrooms...There's a Shocker

In a study that proves something that most people with a generally functioning brain could have already told, researchers report that generally the more experience a teacher has, the stronger they are in the classroom.  

Moreover, teachers' deepening experience appears to translate into other student benefits as well. One of the new studies, for example, links years on the job to declining rates of student absenteeism. 
Although the studies raise numerous questions for follow-up, the researchers say it may be time to retire the received—and somewhat counterintuitive—wisdom that teachers can't or don't improve much after their first few years on the job.
 Unfortunately, South Dakota schools are experiencing a serious issue.  More and more teachers are retiring and not enough young teachers are coming up the pipeline.  The Huron Plainsman reported on the coming drought of teaching candidates:
Some 1,000 teachers are nearing retirement, but only about 600 students are enrolled in South Dakota college and university teacher training programs.
I am not a math teacher, but it seems that those numbers don't add up anything good for our students.  Of course when you have a legislature that puts students last, that lack the courage to find ways to properly fund education, and that think that they need to pit teacher against teacher with plans of merit pay that ignore teachers and administrators.  The Argus Leader reflects on this problem in schools scrambling to fill positions:
South Dakota teachers have the lowest average salary in the country, and school districts across the state have reported candidate pools in the single digits and unfilled teaching jobs. 
As Daugaard puts his panel on education together, I hope that he will listen to them more than the last panel.  I hope he also tasks the panel to figure out what it will take to keep younger teachers and mid-level experienced teachers to stay in education.  Because, we now have proof that experience does in fact matter.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

The Non-veto Was No Surprise: Daugaard Does Not Trust the Voters

The 2015 Legislative season has come to a close, and it has been described by many as "ho-hum."  One of the more controversial things that was passed included carving out the minimum wage for those that are seventeen years and 364 day old and younger to earn $7.50 per hour.  Daugaard had an opportunity to block this incredulous attack on the voters will, but once again sided against the will of the voters.  

Daugaard provided some reasoning for why he choose to go along with the GOP in Pierre instead of the voters he really represents:
"I don't think it is an affront to the will of the voters," Daugaard said. "Again, I think that campaign focused on adult workers who support a household and not on teenagers." 
Next year, we can expect the governor to support legislation that will reduce the minimum wage for anyone that can not provide proof of having children, anyone that is over the age of 65 (not needed to support a household), and college kids that are living in the dorm or with parents.  My favorite sneaky phrase by the Governor and his support for eroding the minimum wage increase decided by the voters was
"I don't think it is an affront to the will of the voters," Daugaard said. "Again, I think that campaign focused on adult workers who support a household and not on teenagers."
Notice it is Daugaard that decides how the voter thinks.  This should come as no surprise.  Remember that this was the man that said that voters were too lazy to read when it came to supporting what he wants, like HB1234 in 2012.  
"The voters don't have time to dig into and understand the facts that bare upon an informed decision and so when voters don't have that time then most are included to say, 'Well, I don't have time to dig into this and so I'm going to vote no,'" Daugaard said.
Now the question left is do we need to spell out everything to the Governor and refer the minimum wage increase for all people?  The problem will be that no matter what the voters want, Daugaard simply doesn't have the time to actually listen to them and will probably do whatever he wants anyway.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

GOP Celebrates Mediocrity On Education, Etc.

Pierre is basically done again for the year, and once again, the GOP leadership in Pierre celebrates not getting much done.  I guess that should not come as a surprise.  Why do anything that could significantly improve life for citizens in South Dakota when you can show up, accomplish little, and know you will get re-elected?  At least that is the thinking of Senate Majority Leader, Tim Rave (R) from Baltic thinks:
"Never have we had a budget that does enough, and that's OK, because that's why we're elected to come back next year," said Rave, R-Baltic.
 I mean, why bother talking the difficult problems and look for ways to increase revenue to meets the needs of the state since you will always get to make promises and accomplish nothing again the next year.  The excuses will always be a lack of income to provide for any real improvements.  I mean what is a representative to do?  Just study the problem over and over?  That was the suggestion of Rapid City Republican Bruce Rampelberg.

The governor and legislative leaders are forming a “Blue Ribbon” task force to address the issue, and I am told everything is on the table. 
On the revenue side, potential changes are limited. Sales tax and local effort (real estate taxes) are already high and two possible solutions, removing sales tax exemptions from certain industries (newspapers, ag equipment, etc.) and an income tax would not be palatable. Finding other significant revenue sources will be difficult.
Lets have another study to see if there is a problem, say all things are on the table, except sales tax exemptions and income taxes.  Notice, that everything is on the table, except anything that would actually have a real impact on providing change for the education crisis. So, we will have a panel that will make bold suggestions, but the GOP is afraid of bold action.  That is not why they were put here.  They won't even allow for VOTERS to decide if we initiate a corporate income tax to help improve education funding.

The only time they try something unique is when ALEC pushes it.  It doesn't have to make common sense.  That was the insight offered on SB 189 that would divert funding for private schools and home schools:
Dan Liekvold, Superintendent of Lead-Deadwood Schools stood up and stated it was his understanding that Senate Bill 189 was not “born and raised in South Dakota.” 
“This came from — I’m not certain, but I think ALEC (the American Legislative Exchange Council, a non-profit organization of conservative state legislators and private sector individuals that, among other things, drafts model legislation). There’s the exact same bill in Arizona, the exact same bill in Louisiana. This wasn’t a South Dakota idea generated here, we’re sort of a proving ground, I think.” 
Dave Peters, a Superintendent from Spearfish summarized the problem with the thinking on the bill:
“For educators in this state in public education who feel the brunt of the low salaries, and the lack of support that they feel, this is just one more thing where the money could be going somewhere else that you’re already trying to fund, and it’s going to be a voucher for sectarian schools,” Superintendent of Spearfish Schools Dave Peters said at Saturday morning’s Spearfish cracker barrel. “Tough one for us to sell to our staff continually, to make them think that their state does support their efforts.”
So in the end, thanks, I guess, GOP for accomplishing very little.  It appears that it will be just enough to continue and kick all the problems down the road and get yourself re-elected.  Maybe the kids that struggle without a teacher will someday be able to replace you and will take a much more proactive stance instead of a non-active stance. 

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Did Rounds and Thune Break the Law?

The blogosphere and the news are abuzz over a letter that the GOP have sent to Iran because they feel that Iranians are too stupid to understand and know how United States can enact treaties.  In the letter which includes 47 signatures (including Rounds and Thune) has a lot of people angry and confused.  The GOP claimed that they could work to get things done, but are still stuck in "HELL NO" mentality.  In the middle of talks which involve several countries other than the US and Iran, talks that have no deal established yet, talks that will try and continue on March 15, the GOP feels the need to tell Iran that they simply don't know how to govern or how to work with anyone and that the US government is broken.  

The Iranian Foreign Minister calls out the GOP and explains that he is well aware of how the US government functions and then is forced to explain to Mike Rounds, John Thune, and the rest of the children, I mean GOP,  how international law works:
"I should bring one important point to the attention of the authors and that is, the world is not the United States, and the conduct of inter-state relations is governed by international law, and not by US domestic law. The authors may not fully understand that in international law, governments represent the entirety of their respective states, are responsible for the conduct of foreign affairs, are required to fulfill the obligations they undertake with other states and may not invoke their internal law as justification for failure to perform their international obligations."
 The GOP not only don't understand international law, but damage the US by making us look as untrustworthy,
 “In this letter, which is an undiplomatic work, we are told that the United States is untrustworthy,” said Mr Zarif. “This kind of communication is unprecedented.”
This is about as smart one of my students declaring to the other basketball team that they won't followed agreed upon rules and even if they do at first, they will probably back out of them in the middle of the game.  It makes no sense.

To top everything off, it appears that John Thune, Mike Rounds, and the other GOP senators broke the law by communicating with Iran.  The US News and World Report points to the Logan Act of 1799:
The act bans U.S. citizens from engaging “without authority of the United States” in “correspondence or intercourse with any foreign government ... with intent to influence the measures or conduct of any foreign government ... in relation to any disputes or controversies with the United States.”
The article continues and points out that there is no threat of being prosecuted under this outdated and unconstitutional law, but the GOP has never meet a legal loophole they couldn't exploit.  Maybe they should be called out and prosecuted for these actions.  If they wanted to make their stance clear, they could have gone on talk radio or wrote and editorial, but they actually sent the letter to Iran.  

No matter what happens in the courts, the actions of the GOP have damaged the United States.  Jay Bookman with the Atlanta Journal and Constitution states:
But in their stubborn righteousness, in their self-satisfied belief that they and only they are the wise and proper spokesmen for this country, they have made the United States look weak in the eyes of the world. They have taken the true source of whatever influence we might carry — our unity — and they have debased it. They have done real harm to this country.... 
And at the national level, the problem is that once such understandings are violated, once such taboos are broken, they become much more difficult to reinstate. With this example now set, it becomes much easier for malcontents of either party to follow it in the future. 
And other nations, having watched this play out, will now begin to factor it into their own calculations. If they are told “no” by an American adminstration, they now have hope of being told “yes” by another branch of that government. If they are told “yes” by an administration, they now have cause to doubt whether that “yes” can really be counted upon.
For shame on hurting the United States, John Thune and Mike Rounds, for shame.  Your childish behavior is not becoming of a United State's Senator.  Too bad we can't impeach all 47 Senators that have proven they are not fit to be Senators.