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October 08, 2012 05:48 PM

Explanation And Reaction: Referred Law 16

sioux falls, sd

In less than a month, South Dakota voters will voice their opinions on teacher bonuses, scholarships and tenure.

House Bill 1234 was one of the most talked about bills of the 2012 legislative session, and now it's on the November ballot.

It's called Referred Law 16 and this time, it's up to voters to decide if it will pass.

House Bill 1234 came out of the legislative session with the Governor's signature.  Opponents collected more than 30,000 signatures so the people could have the final say.

The education reform act has five key components. It would establish a scholarship program for students who commit to teaching in South Dakota in critical subjects. It would also set up a bonus program for math and science teachers, and any other teachers deemed "top performers." 

That bonus pay is one of the topics dividing educators.

Those in favor of the law say higher pay is how the private sector attracts the most talented employees and districts need to do the same.

"Shouldn't we want to pay great teachers more? People argue that it's difficult to be fair or just in these rewards. But truthfully, the current system, which pays everybody the same or everybody the same regardless of the job they're doing based only on the number of years of experience and based upon their education level, is frankly equally or more unfair," Mitchell School Superintendent Joseph Graves said.

Opponents say the bill will pit one teacher against the other and teachers will collaborate less.

"When you see that collaboration go away, the students are actually the ones that hurt from that. There are numerous tests out there saying there's no correlation between student achievement increase and merit pay. Actually, it usually stays the same or gets worse. And that's because once you remove the collaborative element, teachers no longer help each other because they're in competition," No On 16 field coordinator Ryan Folfs said.

The measure also mandates a uniform rating system for teachers and principals across the state. And the fifth component of the measure would get rid of continuing contracts, or tenure, and let local school boards decide whether to continue teacher contracts.

Referred Law 16 is on the ballot as a veto referendum.

A 'yes' vote is in favor of the education reform act.  

A 'no' vote on the ballot would block HB 1234 from going into effect.

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