Governor’s Address Targets Education, Workforce Improvements

Nick Lowrey

Governor Dennis Daugaard delivered his State of the State address to a joint session of the state legislature Tuesday.

The address reviewed the state’s progress on several issues over the past year from dealing with sweeping budget cuts to recovering from the recent economic recession. Daugaard outlined several important issues currently facing South Dakota and proposed sweeping changes to education.

The most drastic proposal Daugaard made was an incredible shift in the way South Dakota educates its children through high school. Daugaard made the claim that despite nearly doubling the amount of money spent on education per student there has been almost no improvement in results.

His proposal calls for a shift from the current education model to a market based system of evaluation and performance based rewards. This will lead to the elimination of tenure for any K-12 teacher who has not already earned it by July 1.

Specifically, Daugaard wants to give teachers performing in the top 20 percent of their peers a $5,000 bonus every year. Additionally, to promote math and science education he proposed a $3,500 bonus for every math and science teacher every year they teach. According to Daugaard the idea is to invest in effective teachers which he said is the key to student achievement.

Another important piece of Daugaard’s address was the South Dakota workforce initiatives (WINS). This is a 20-point plan designed to bolster the state’s engineering and skilled trades workforce. The plan calls for development in these areas beginning in the K-12 system and continuing into post-secondary education like trade schools.

Another aspect of the plan is encouraging people to become rural primary health care providers, meaning that under Daugaard’s proposal South Dakota will expand its medical school and develop programs to encourage medical students to work in rural areas.

Finally, Daugaard wants to bring workers from other areas into South Dakota. The state will grow more aggressive in its programs to attract workers to the state by partnering with local businesses and a private work force recruiter to bring up to 1,000 professional and skilled workers to the state.

Governor Daugaard also gave a summary of the state’s efforts on four other issues. The first was the Infant Mortality Task Force which was created to address the state’s high infant death rate. The second was the Medicaid Solutions Work Group which studied ways to reduce the costs of the state’s medicaid program. Third the Governor reviewed the state’s program to fight the Mountain Pine Bark Beetle infestation in the Black Hills. Finally he outlined the progress made by the better government initiative to simplify state government.