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SD Teachers Union Tries To Block Bonus Bill

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A bill that would give top performing teachers bonuses continues to cause controversy, even after being passed by the South Dakota legislature. The bill still needs to be signed by Governor Daugaard before it will become law, but a South Dakota teachers union is hoping to stop that from ever happening.

Education reform is back on the table. The highly debated issue narrowly squeezed by the house, and now many teachers are banding together to squash it entirely. The South Dakota Education Association is planning to take the issue away from legislators, and put it into the hands of voters.

“Because we're referring this to the public, we'd like this bill to go away and we'd like the conversation to start fresh,” says South Dakota Education Association President, Sandy Arsenealt.

To put the measure on the November ballot, the union has until June 18th to collect nearly 16 thousand signatures, and they say they are up for the challenge.

Arsenealt says, “I think we're ready to roll up our sleeves and do what we need to do to make that happen.”

The bill would give rewards to new math and science teachers and would give $5,000 bonuses to the state's top teachers. Even though the bill was modified so that schools could design their own plans, this group of educators say this type of reform is not needed. They believe the focus instead needs to be on cuts to education and education funding. The union says a public vote will give others the chance to voice their opinions.

“Our students are too valuable to waste that time and energy doing reforms that we have seen fail all across the nation.  We really need to refocus on reform and what is good for them,” says Arsenealt.

Governor Daugaard was not available for an interview Wednesday, however he did release this statement: “The bill will invest $15 million a year in teacher pay with lots of local control as to how the dollars are spent to advance student achievement.”
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