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Education Officials Talk Referred Law 16

October 11, 2012, 9:59 PM by Peggy Moyer

Education Officials Talk Referred Law 16

The topic of educating today's kids stretches far beyond the halls and classrooms.

Come November, voters will decide if education reform is needed in the state. South Dakota's education secretary says Referred Law 16 was put together with a significant amount of input from educators and the measure gives them more control over teacher pay, performance and bonuses.

"All of the decisions on bonuses given to teachers are made at the local level. The determinations of which teachers, how many teachers, how that's going to be distributed, is all done at the local level," South Dakota Education Secretary Melody Schopp said.

Harrisburg superintendent Jim Holbeck is not in favor of Referred Law 16 and says passage of it would actually tie local districts' hands more.

"I think it takes away from choice on schools,” Holbeck said. “It's going to be a top down model on telling schools here's what you're going to have to do. And it's a little ridiculous where all of us out here in our field can do most of the things already that the bill says we have to do."

Another element of Referred Law 16 that has voters divided is continuing contracts. Schopp says school districts would have the option to offer tenure if the measure passes.

“Before the state mandated that, there was continuing contract or what people know as tenure. This allows the local district to determine if they want to offer continuing contract status in their district," Schopp said.

Holbeck says the current system allows him to keep good teachers and if he needs to remove someone, he can do that too.

Holbeck believes the state has an ulterior motive.

"I think this bill was aimed at trying to break up the teachers union and teachers collective bargaining abilities,” Holbeck said. “And that bothers me when we're already at the bottom of the heap in teacher pay."

Holbeck and Schopp do agree that great things are happening in the state's classrooms and that voters will have the final say on November 6th.

Referred Law 16 was called House Bill 1234 when it went through the state legislature last spring and was signed by Governor Dennis Daugaard.

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