The controversial education agenda that has polarized South Dakotans this legislative session, is now on Governor Dennis Daugaard’s desk, ready to be signed. Despite the countless revisions and overwhelming public opposition, HB 1234 passed the state House by just one vote.
Just one vote changed the outcome of education in South Dakota, and Rep. Steve Hickey (R-Sioux Falls) cast it. His deciding vote came after he called HB 1234 his “least favorite” bill of the session and after he promised his constituents he would vote against the bill in its final form. And because of that shift, Hickey has been called “Judas” and “spineless.” And I would warrant a guess that he has lost a few friends in the last few days.
I’m disappointed in the state of education right now. And I have a stake in its outcome. I am a future teacher. I graduated from Augustana College, moved to Nevada (my home state) and then moved back to pursue a degree at the University of Sioux Falls. Upon hearing that I aspire to become a teacher, people often say “So you’ll move far away from South Dakota.” There is something wrong about the ”status quo” if the initial reaction is “why would you want to stay here.”
I am proud that educators are generating the interest this year that they deserve. But there is a larger issue at hand: a chronic underfunding of schools. Without the amount of support that educators deserve, we are asking them to repair an airline engine while still flying the plane.
“The easy vote would have been no,” says Hickey. “It takes a backbone to stand up and say we aren’t just throwing more money at something if doing so historically has proven to not be the answer.”
Indeed. It does take a backbone. Yet, after the number of revisions, the discontent with this bill, the bipartisan opposition, perhaps it would have been all the more brave to say “We need to make sure we have a piece of legislation that provides the best environment for success of every teacher and every child.”
***Jonathon Josten, SDDP Intern