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Petition Drive Turns in Signatures; Sets the Stage for a November Vote

June 19, 2012

PIERRE, S.D. - The South Dakota Education Association has turned in about 30,000 petition signatures to the Secretary of State, gathered in an effort to overturn HB 1234, an education-reform bill which was passed by this year's Legislature.

SDEA President Sandy Arseneault says the success of the petition drive shows that people want to vote on the controversial issue. She says they plan an education process about the law.

"I think there's still a lot of misconceptions out there and misunderstandings of what really is in HB 1234. So I think our job now begins to educate the people, and hope that we get the 'no' votes that we need to stop the legislation."

Arseneault says that if HB 1234 is rejected by voters, teachers will still be evaluated under other, existing state laws.

"That law says we will develop a model evaluation tool, but the difference is that it is not attached to a merit pay plan or requiring the system to be addressed by evaluating teachers 50 percent on their student test scores. It just says that we will evaluate teachers, we will do a model evaluation system and school districts can opt into using it."

Governor Dennis Daugaard, who supports the bill, said in a statement: "The bill is aimed at improving student achievement by channeling extra money directly to our best teachers and phasing out teacher tenure."

Arseneault says teachers are also committed to higher student achievement.

"We've already incorporated much of what the United States is doing around common core standards. That really is a type of school reform that we, in the state, are really wrapping our arms around, and everybody is moving forward on that. So to say that we are not willing to look at finding ways to improve student achievement is totally false."

Over the next few weeks, the Secretary of State's office will verify that SDEA has submitted more than the 15,855 valid signatures needed to place the law on the ballot.

Jerry Oster, Public News Service - SD