By Dr. Melody Schopp
Department of Education
It is my pleasure to be serving as your Interim Secretary of Education. I am passionate about doing the right thing for the schools and students of South Dakota. While budget discussions will dominate the conversation for the next few months, I look forward to a time when we can talk about innovative ideas to make our education system even better!
For this month’s column, I am offering a quick update on three areas that are on my radar screen:
News from the State Capitol
While the Governor has been very clear that we all need to share in the burden to address the state’s structural deficit, he and other law makers are looking for ways to help ease the burden for schools. One example: The Governor has introduced SB 200, which would repeal the fund balance cap. That bill moved easily through the Senate and is on its way to the House.
We’ve also seen several bills to ease certain restrictions on the capital outlay fund. One of these bills, SB 111, also has made it through the Senate and is on its way to the House.
Not surprisingly, we haven’t seen the volume of bills we’ve seen in previous years. There have been a number of bills requiring districts to adopt certain policies (eg., bullying policy, hazing policy). On those bills, the department has consistently asked that the Legislature honor local control and let local leaders make decisions that are appropriate to their unique circumstances.
News from the Feds
We know that the Obama administration is pushing for reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act sooner rather than later. At the state level, we have been laying the groundwork on this issue for nearly a year now.
Recently, Governor Daugaard sent a letter to our state’s Congressional delegation outlining our wish for a speedy reauthorization. South Dakota is a member of the Council of Chief State School Officers, which also has been advocating for reauthorization. It is CCSSO’s position, and one that we support, that if reauthorization does not occur in a timely manner, states may choose to exercise authority granted under NCLB to propose their own accountability models.
Feedback from you
Last December, many of you responded to the department’s Customer Service Survey. Please know that we take your feedback seriously, and we fully understand that there are areas we can make improvement. Our management team is reviewing your responses and developing specific strategies on how we can address some of the common concerns. We see ourselves as a support agency, rather than a regulatory agency (although we do some of that too!), and will continue to take steps to provide better customer service to our districts.