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Efforts Ramp Up To Refer HB 1234 to Ballot

May 24, 2012, 5:03 PM by Nicole Winters

Efforts Ramp Up To Refer HB 1234 to Ballot

There are just three weeks left to gather enough signatures to send House Bill 1234 to a public vote.

The bill, which became law this legislative session, is meant to better student achievement through top teacher bonuses and scholarships to critical need areas.  But many believe it will hurt teachers and want the public to have the final say.  Now, efforts are going full steam ahead to make that happen.

“Sir, do you want to sign a petition for South Dakota teachers?” Timothy Shaw said.

It's a question Shaw is asking over and over to anyone who walks into the Minnehaha County Administration building.

"Once they understand what we're doing, most people are all for the teachers," Shaw said.

Shaw, like several others across the state, is working to gather signatures to put House Bill 1234 on the November ballot.  The teacher merit pay bill, which is now law, gives top teachers bonuses, provides scholarships for new teachers in critical need areas, and does away with tenure.

It's been hotly contested.  Some believe it will hurt education more than help it.

"I signed House Bill 1234 because I feel like teachers do a lot of work especially around this town, and they don't get enough credit for the work that they do.  And they deserve to have a lot of rights, any rights they can have," Ashlee Hanisch said.

The state's top teachers union says the bill was rushed and is a one-size-fits-all measure.  The group's leading the drive and needs at least 16,000 valid signatures by June 18.  The union says it's been meeting its goals and is ramping up efforts.

While many choose not to sign, Shaw says he gets a healthy dose each day.

"I say probably 80 percent of the people are at least aware of this bill; probably 75 percent of those people are willing to sign the petition," Shaw said.

Pass or fail, many of those putting down their names say it's the opportunity for the people to decide that truly matters.

"A lot of times government makes up their mind how they want to do things and they really don't care how the people feel about it.  I think the people should have a lot more in on what they say," Frank Carlson said.

The SDEA says they are cautiously optimistic that they will reach the needed amount of signatures.  You can call their offices in Pierre at 605-224-9263; Sioux Falls at 605-339-3236; and Rapid City at 605-342-8068.

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