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March 07, 2012 05:02 PM

Voters May Have Ultimate Say On HB1234

sioux falls, sd

Voters may be the ones to decide whether South Dakota should eliminate teacher tenure and give bonuses to top educators.  House Bill 1234 doesn't have the Governor's signature yet, but that isn't stopping the state's main teachers union from taking action.

The South Dakota Education Association wants voters to make the decision in November.

House Bill 1234 got plenty of attention this legislative session with many teachers and education officials speaking out against it.

The bill based on teacher merit pay, scholarships for critical need areas, and doing away with tenure underwent several changes but ultimately made it through the House and Senate with a passing vote.

Now, The Board of Directors for the South Dakota Education Association says voters should get the ultimate decision.

"We want what's best for the kids, this is the best for kids and we think the people of the state of South Dakota have a right to take a look at that and decide if they think this is best for kids," Board member Pam Oberembt said.

The board voted to support the referral of House Bill 1234 to the November ballot, saying the bill was rushed and does little to help students. The board also says there is no proof that the one-size-fits-all measure will improve student achievement.

"Rewarding the best teachers who are already doing the best job is not a way to improve student achievement, it hasn't worked in Georgia, it hasn't worked in New York, or Tennessee. It blows up everywhere it goes.  Therefore, that piece of it is not a good idea as far as student achievement," Oberembt said.

Oberembt says it will be not be an easy task getting the question on the ballot. It will take nearly 16,000 valid signatures by June 18th. That's why SDEA is calling on concerned citizens to help.

"Sign the petitions, get active, talk to people and vote in the fall," Oberembt said.

Oberembt says you can call the SDEA office or Sioux Falls Education Association to get involved or sign a petition.

Governor Dennis Daugaard, who proposed the original plan, released a statement in response to SDEA's action.

"This bill will invest $15 million a year in teacher pay, with lots of local control as to how the dollars are spent to advance student achievement," Daugaard said.

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