Governor proposes to improve workforce, teacher performance

Noah Brown

On Friday Jan. 20, S.D. Gov. Dennis Daugaard held a town hall meeting on the SDSU campus in the The Union’s Volstorff Ballroom.

The governor used the town hall setting to outline new plans that affect education and workforce development in South Dakota. He and his administration spoke to approximately 100 businesses across the state to determine what their needs were.

“The thing that I heard more than once is that workforce is a problem with us,” said Daugaard. His first proposal is known as The South Dakota Workforce Initiatives, or SD Wins. SD Wins involves several new programs designed to help bring skilled workers to the state and connect possible employees with employers.

One key point the governor emphasized was preparing young people to succeed in a competitive job market in South Dakota. Daugaard advocated expanding career cluster camps as an integral part of this strategy. Career cluster camps provide high school students with a hands-on introduction to career fields they express interest in.

Daugaard noted that “scrub camps” are already being used to expose students to the medical environment and give them first-hand experience in hospitals and clinics. The governor wants to expand this program in several other fields including engineering and Information Technology, as well as in skilled professions like machining.

To further counteract South Dakota’s immediate lack of qualified workers, Daugaard wants to expand programs in post-graduate and technical schools in the state. This would include introducing a new welding program at Mitchell Technical Institute and expanding enrollment in medical schools for physician’s assistants.

In order to draw more people to South Dakota, the state is going to reach out to former South Dakotans who may be interested in coming back. To do this, a website,, has been created to help former South Dakotans to find skilled job openings in the state and submit their résumés. The governor also wants to team up with the employee placement company Manpower to help address the immediate need for skilled workers.

“Our hope is that we can bring around 1,000 new South Dakotans through those means in the next year or two,” said Daugaard.

More information on the Daugaard’s workforce initiative can be found at

The other main focus of the presentation was education. Daugaard presented data that illustrated how standardized test scores have not improved over the last few decades in South Dakota and proposed several sweeping changes to the system to raise scores.

The changes will affect every teacher in the state by offering an annual bonus of $5,000 to the top performing 20 percent of teachers in each school district. According to Daugaard, the award will encourage teachers to put in extra effort and show dedication to students. The success of educators will be evaluated through student test scores, as well as teaching techniques in the classroom.

Fifty percent of the assessment will be quantitative and based on the amount that students improve from year to year on the existing standardized tests, such as the Dakota STEP test. The other half will be calculated by analyzing how well teachers use accepted teaching styles and techniques and also how thoroughly they cover the core curriculum.

Another salary incentive is a $3,500 dollar bonus given every year to math and science teachers starting in 2013.

“We need more teachers in math and science… additional compensation can help steer potential teachers into areas where we have shortages,” explained Daugaard. “This is the largest investment into the teaching profession in the history of South Dakota.”

Daugaard also proposed removal of the tenure program as another step in encouraging teacher performance improvement.

“We are moving away from a system that relies on tenure to one that relies on rigorous evidence-based evaluation,” said Daugaard. He explained those teachers who already have tenure would keep it, but it would no longer be attainable for current and incoming teachers.

When the forum was opened to questions from the audience, the President of the Brookings School Board, Steve Bayer, raised concerns about replacing local control of curriculum and teaching assessment with centralized control. Daugaard responded by pointing out that while not every district needs changes, many are not well-financed and the state must look at the larger picture when it comes to student performance.

Alex Kunz, a sophomore music merchandising major, praised the governor for realizing the need to focus on education and said, “I think it’s good that incentives will be given to the best teachers. Competition improves everyone involved.”