The following email was sent to all Sioux Falls School District Staff on January 19, 2012.
Message to the Sioux Falls School District Staff
Since Governor Daugaard’s release of his plan for K-12 public education I have been pondering how to provide you with additional facts so that you can be the judge of the plan’s merits. Because it is impossible for me to personally visit with each of you, I have decided a message delivered via email communication will have to serve the purpose.
The national education agenda’s one-size-fits all solution for public education now appears to being haphazardly applied to the trenches of South Dakota’s K-12 public education system. A sincere look into the trenches of South Dakota’s K-12 school districts would reveal a different problem desperately in need of an adequate solution. For instance,
1. Governor Daugaard announced a 2.3% increase to State Aid. When applied to last year’s funded level, the proposed State Aid funding increase is .8% – nothing more and nothing less. In 2007… five years ago, the District summarized and shared the devastating impact of the State’s continued underfunding of K-12 education….unfortunately, State leadership has yet to customize a solution for South Dakota’s children.
2. Governor Daugaard supports his plan by stating the State’s K-12 student enrollment has decreased by 28.5% since 1971. What he doesn’t say or recognize is that the Sioux Falls School District’s enrollment has increased by 16.2% during that same time.
3. Governor Daugaard supports his plan by stating the South Dakota K-12 employee to student ratio has increased by 84.7% since 1971. What was not mentioned is that the State employee to citizen per capita ratio has grown by 101.3% as compared to the Sioux Falls School District’s employee to student ratio’s growth of 75.1% during the same timeframe.
4. Governor Daugaard recommends merit pay in an apparent effort to motivate and inspire an arbitrary group of 20% of the teachers. It is well known that South Dakota teacher pay is ranked 50th in the nation (if the Sioux Falls School District was a state we would rank 49th) and research does not support that providing merit pay, on top of an inadequate base, is a motivator. We have continually voiced this concern.
5. Governor Daugaard recommends an automatic stipend to math and science teachers as a means to reward and incent teachers into these fields. The fact is that the Sioux Falls School District is faced with needing 99 elementary teachers in the next three years and has sought plans of intent (i.e. provisional certification) 170 times in the last 5 years, of which only 13 (7.7%) were for math or science. Once again, applying a nationally perceived problem to all of South Dakota misses the mark.
6. Governor Daugaard was quoted in the Mitchell Daily Republic as saying: “The education community has a lot of lobbyists,” he said. “The big schools have their own lobbyist or two, the small schools or middle schools have a school lobbyist or two, Sioux Falls has its own lobbyist, SDEA (the South Dakota Education Association, a teachers’ union), the school board association.” “The only one that doesn’t have a lobbyist is students,” Daugaard said. “I’m their lobbyist now.” Yet, it is a fact that the Governor’s office alone employs over 10 lobbyists and the State of South Dakota has over 200 registered lobbyists for its various interests. Our governor is not the students’ only lobbyist. In addition to the 4 lobbyists employed by various education groups, your dedication to our mission confirms you are the true advocates and “lobbyists” for each of our children.
Just as we are teaching our students to inquire, explore, and validate the fascinating lessons learned each day in our schools, I ask that you inquire, explore and validate the merits of the Governor’s plan for education. You be the judge of whether or not the national education agenda fits the needs of South Dakota.
In my first year as Superintendent a wise and influential South Dakota legislator told me, “Pam, if the Sioux Falls School District is going to survive you must do so in spite of Pierre.” I want you to know that the Sioux Falls School District will not just survive in spite of Pierre, we will thrive. Our parents and community believe in the work we do. Keep your head high, be proud of what you do each day to educate and prepare each student to succeed in this changing world. You are a highly dedicated and qualified team! I thank you for what you do each day.