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Divided Opinions On Teacher Bonus Bill

June 18, 2012, 10:00 PM by Ben Dunsmoor

Divided Opinions On Teacher Bonus Bill
SIOUX FALLS, SD -

South Dakota voters will likely get to make the final decision on one of the most controversial bills during the last legislative session.

Monday, the South Dakota Education Association turned in 30,000 petition signatures to put House Bill 1234 on the ballot.

The bill would reward the top teachers in the state with bonuses through an evaluation system.

Mark Johnston is the Republican Chairman of the Senate Education Committee; he believes the state should get behind the effort to reward South Dakota's top teachers.

"We ought to be embracing this because it provides math and science teachers more money," Johnston said.

But Democrat Kent Alberty, who is running against Johnston in the fall and is also the President of the Sioux Falls School Board, doesn't agree.

"My real honest opinion both as a school board member and as a candidate is that it's a good example of bad legislation," Alberty said.

The bill rewards top teachers through an evaluation plan created by the state or through a state-approved plan created local school districts. 

Alberty doesn't think it's the right plan for South Dakota schools.

"What we really need to get back to is fully funding the formula, which we did for years. We need to get back to that and we need to make sure that local school districts have the local control that our country was built on," Alberty said.

Johnston says the bill does provide flexibility for school districts and puts an emphasis on math and science so students can learn the skills needed for some of the hard-to-fill jobs in today's workforce.

"We've got to feed the pipeline. We've got to get these kids more interested in the sciences and mathematics and engineering at an early age so they can fill those jobs in the future," Johnston said.

It’s likely the decision on if the bill moves forward is now in the hands of voters and out of the hands of lawmakers and school officials.

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