Daugaard’s education budget: why so happy?

The positive reaction to Gov. Daugaard’s education budget was a bit puzzling. Sure, it’s better than a 10 percent cut or a kick in the teeth, but is a .8 percent per-student increase really worth celebrating?

The first thing Harrisburg Supt. Jim Holbeck told me was: “I’m pleased to see the dollar figures that were dedicated in light of the current revenue streams the governor was facing.”

Wade Pogany, the new top guy for the school boards association, was decidedly positive in his reaction: “We’re glad that we can get back to some predictability.”

He allowed that some school boards might have to continue making cuts, but he portrayed the budget proposal as good news for schools.

Positive, even though the plan wouldn’t give schools what ASBSD asked for: making the 2 percent in one-time money from last year permanent before adding the 2.3 percent inflationary increase already in law. Daugaard’s plan falls about 1.5 percent short of that.

(The $8.4M in training money is a big deal, but it could be described as the state paying for some things that they’ve mandated schools adopt.)

Sioux Falls School Board members struck a different tone Wednesday during a work session:

Board President Kent Alberty said he didn’t share Pogany’s view that schools did just fine.

Doug Morrison said the teacher salary schedule “will take a step backwards” if Daugaard’s plan becomes law.

I emailed Superintendent Pam Homan for some reaction to the budget address but she didn’t respond. Maybe we’ll have to wait for a Rotary meeting.

SD will not be bullied into anti-bullying legislation

The U.S. Department of Education reported earlier this week that only three states - South Dakota, Michigan and Montana - do not have laws addressing bullying in schools. Read the very long report here.

Michigan’s governor signed one Tuesday, so we’re now down to two.

But Montana at least has adopted a model policy for school districts. As the report says:

South Dakota is the only state with no bullying law and no source of state guidance for schools to respond to bullying on their campuses.

No state guidance, sure, but the lobbying group that represents all school districts does. Find it here.

South Dakota lawmakers have tried to pass a bullying bill. In 2009, HB1279 failed on a series of narrow votes despite having a slew of sponsors. It sought to define bullying and require school boards to adopt an anti-bullying policy.

Last year’s SB104 would have simply required school boards to enact anti-bullying policies. But it too failed, on a 4-3 vote in the Senate Education Committee.

Who would oppose an anti-bullying bill? In this case, it was Sens. Tim Rave, Mark Johnston, Elizabeth Kraus and Cooper Garnos, who now is a principal in the Lyman school district.

Also opposing the bill? The Sioux Falls School District. Here was their explanation:

The District opposes this bill because it moves the State Board of Education away from a policy making role and into the operational role of the school districts. The bill also infringes on local control of the elected School Board. The Sioux Falls School already has a bully policy that is also aligned to the District’s progressive discipline plan.

It all comes back to the school funding lawsuit

On Sept. 31, 2008, Wade Pogany took the stand as the final witness for the state of South Dakota in the court trial over whether public schools are adequately funded.

That lawsuit, which the state won, was supported by the Associated School Boards of South Dakota. Pogany, who at the time worked for the Department of Education, is going to work for ASBSD next month as executive director.

So that’s kind of interesting.

That funding lawsuit, by the way, remains under review by the South Dakota Supreme Court. The losing plaintiffs appealed the ruling by Lori Wilbur, who is changing jobs herself. In a couple hours, Wilbur takes the oath of office to join the Supreme Court.
So that’s also kind of interesting.

As a justice, of course, Wilbur will have no say in the appeal of her school funding decision.

Here’s how Terry Woster – now working for the state, a somewhat less interesting story – reported Pogany’s testimony when Woster worked for the Argus Leader:

The state’s final witness Tuesday, Deputy Education Secretary Wade Pogany, described the computer systems and supporting technology that have been provided to schools in the past several years at state expense. He also outlined distance-learning programs and online courses available, often for free to a school.

He also described a teacher compensation plan the Legislature approved two years ago.

Pogany testified that as much as $20 million in state money goes to schools outside the education-funding formula that is the subject of the lawsuit. That money pays for things that benefit the schools, he said.

Facing DUI, SD superintendent skips speech

Lance Witte, superintendent at Wessington Springs, was supposed to be in Sioux Falls today and Friday, giving two presentations at the ASBSD and SASD convention.
Trouble is, he was arrested Friday on suspicion of drunken driving, less than a year after pleading guilty to a separate DUI charge.
News agencies have been unable to reach Witte since his arrest.
And although he’s out of jail on bond, he evidently didn’t tell anyone he wouldn’t be showing up for the convention.
He was supposed to speak at 3 p.m. today on “How to Ensure Rigor with Project-based Learning.” When he didn’t show, the presentation was canceled.
He was scheduled to present again Friday morning, on personal learning plans for students, but he won’t make that either. I was told some other staff from his school district will fill in for him.
Wessington Springs is one of the four “innovation lab” school districts working with the Department of Education on project-based learning, which they hope will set an example for all rural schools.
Superintendents would be wise not to follow Witte’s example off the job.


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