Tuition and fees are high at SD public campuses

The Legislature’s Executive Board members are mulling a new report that compares tuition and fees at South Dakota’s six state universities and four public technical institutes with those in neighboring states.

The analysis by the Legislative Research Council shows South Dakota was No. 2, behind only Minnesota, for tuition and fees at the state universities. South Dakota was No. 1 for tuition and fees at the public technical institutes at Watertown, Mitchell, Rapid City and Sioux Falls.

In this instance, being No. 1 or No. 2 isn’t good. It means your state is the most expensive or second-most expensive. This adds to the case that South Dakota might be pricing itself too high and that the Legislature hasn’t done enough for the state universities or the public tech schools.

Here’s the report.

SDRS announces election winners today w/update

The South Dakota Retirement System’s board of trustees meets today (Wednesday) in Sioux Falls at the investment council’s offices (4009 W. Forty-Ninth St.). Among the agenda items, the trustees will learn results from the spring elections.

Seven people including incumbent Jim Hansen of Pierre ran for the retiree seat on the board. Four people ran for a teacher slot. Four people including incumbent Laurie Gustafson of Pierre ran for a state-employee seat. Two people including incumbent KJ Peterson of Rapid City ran for a county-employee slot.

No one filed as a candidate for the elected municipal official seat. Pierre Mayor Laurie Gill, who had been on the SDRS board since 2013, didn’t seek re-election to her city government post this spring.

FIRST UPDATE: Winners are incumbents Hansen, Gustafson and Peterson, along with James Appl, an Aberdeen school teacher. The board will choose a municipal elected official later today.

Morning Consult / Politico: Trump at 45 approval

The latest survey by Morning Consult / Politico conducted June 8-12 shows U.S. President Donald Trump at 45 percent approval and 50 percent disapproval.

This marks the sixth week in a row that Trump saw higher disapproval than approval.

He’s been at 50 or 51 percent disapproval for the past five weeks, and at 42 to 45 percent approval over the same period.

The survey measured opinions of 1,990 registered voters throughout the nation.

Girls State officers announced by USD

The University of South Dakota at Vermillion recently hosted the South Dakota American Legion Auxiliary’s Girls State events. The winners:

“Ruhama Tereda of Sioux Falls was elected the 2017 ALA SD Girls State Governor. Margaret Fouberg of Aberdeen was elected Lieutenant Governor.

“Additional state officer elections included Ashlynn Burk of Willow Lake as Attorney General; Nareen Barwari of Sioux Falls as Secretary of State; Haylee Ecklein of Salem as State Auditor; Carolyn Blatchford of Brookings as State Treasurer; Jada Tschetter of Brandon as Commissioner of School and Public Lands. Elected to the Public Utilities Commission were Libby Bailey of Bridgewater, Kate Budig of Yankton and Amanda Haas of Tabor.

“Eda Uzunlar of Rapid City and Samantha Gortmaker of Pierre were chosen as delegates to represent South Dakota at the American Legion Auxiliary Girls Nation in Washington, D.C., with Anneliese Taggart of Vermillion and Kia Witt of Brookings serving as alternates.

“Morgan Kohl of Watertown was selected as the 2017 recipient of the Samsung American Legion Scholarship. Regan Stone of Dell Rapids was awarded the Bonnie Slade Memorial Scholarship, Bethany Wynia of Avon was award the Helen Gottlesben Memorial Scholarship, and Haleigh Bebbington of Pringle received the Travis Memorial Scholarship.

“Officer Elections and Awards
Meredith Costello of Sioux Falls – Chief Justice of the Supreme Court
Caitlyn Speier of Rapid City – Supreme Court Justice
Mya VonBank of Sioux Falls – Supreme Court Justice
Melissa Mikkelson of Vermillion – Supreme Court Justice
Heather Selleck of Brookings – Supreme Court Justice
Caitlynn McGregor of Salem – Supreme Court Justice
Bess Seaman of Warner – Supreme Court Justice
Anneliese Taggart of Vermillion – Speaker of the House of Representatives
Morgan Gosch of Sioux Falls – House of Representatives Majority Leader
Abigail Anderson of Sturgis – House of Representatives Minority Leader
Avery Scott of Sioux Falls – Senate President Pro Tempore
Allision Severson of Ipswich – Senate Majority Leader
Heidi Stiklestad of Java – Senate Minority Leader
Makayla DeDeyne of De Smet – Nationalist Party Chairwoman
Eda Uzunlar of Rapid City – Nationalist Party keynote speaker
Aine Crinion of Brookings – Federalist Party Chairwoman
Samantha Murtha of Dimock – Federalist Party keynote speaker
Lucy Dekkenga of Sioux Falls – outstanding journalist award
Aine Crinion of Brookings – highest citizen’s exam score
Hannah Sumption of Frederick – outstanding ALA SD ALA Girls State citizen
Leah Waid of Yankton – outstanding speaker
Kirstyn Bohn of Meckling – outstanding speaker of the Senate
Aine Crinion of Brookings – outstanding speaker of the House
Kristyn Albrecht of Yankton- outstanding prosecuting attorney
Ann Madson of Sioux Falls – outstanding defense attorney
Natalie Montoya of Rapid City – outstanding appellant attorney
Brianna Zimmer of Sioux Falls – outstanding appellee attorney
Kacie Mudder of Avon – outstanding forensic investigator.”

Changing from an aye to a nay

The amendment made by Sen. Jeff Partridge, R-Rapid City, rubbed Rep. Larry Rhoden wrong — very wrong — Monday during the Legislature’s special session on nonmeandered waters that lay above private land.

Partridge changed the sunset date to June 30, 2018. Rhoden, R-Union Center, had steered the Legislature’s task force on nonmeandered waters to July 1, 2021, in its June 2 final draft legislation.

The House of Representatives initially rejected the Senate version of HB 1001. That sent Senate Republicans upstairs to room 414. There they spent a long time behind the closed doors of their private caucus Monday evening. When they came out, they hadn’t budged.

The House-Senate conference committee assembled with Rhoden and Partridge the last to arrive. Rhoden’s face showed his feelings. He didn’t relent. The six negotiators acted on the motion from House Democratic leader Spencer Hawley of Brookings that the two chambers accept the Senate amendment.

When the conference roll call reached Rhoden, he voted nay. The conference report came out 5-1. When the House voted to accept the Senate version, Rhoden once again voted nay. An hour later, he was spotted just inside the doorway of the governor’s operations suite, making the case about something to Lt. Gov. Matt Michels, who had presided over the Senate’s proceedings Monday.

What the Partridge amendment accomplished was this: The Legislature now will have to act in the 2018 regular session, or in some type of special session, on the nonmeandered-waters issue, before the sun sets June 30 of next year.

The task force of 15 legislators, on which Rhoden served but Partridge did not, had carefully put together draft legislation during the past eight weeks. The draft included the requirement that the state Game, Fish and Parks Department deliver a report on its progress in negotiating for public access.

The GFP report is due no earlier than April 1, 2019, and no later than June 1, 2019, to the Legislture’s Executive Board. The legislation also requires the board must hold at least one public hearing in 2019 after receiving GFP’s report. Those requirements remained as Gov. Dennis Daugaard signed the legislation into law Monday night. The measure took effect immediately because it carried an emergency clause.

One veteran lobbyist carefully asked Monday night, as the Senate was proceeding through the roll call on final passage, whether there might have been more to the matter. The lobbyist suggested that perhaps it was a quiet revolt by the Senate Republican moderates who didn’t support Sen. Brock Greenfield, R-Clark, for the top post of Senate president pro tem, the No. 2 presiding officer.

Greenfield seemed to equivocate, just a bit, during the discussion of the Partridge amendment. Partridge declined to respond when Greenfield wondered whether a 2019 sunset might be acceptable. The Partridge amendment for 2018 passed 29-4. Among the ayes was Greenfield.

The reason Partridge gave for the amendment was the Senate’s turnover. He said 2018 was the only year that would work because the Senate’s membership changes by about one-third every two years. He wanted the same Legislature to decide what to put into place permanently

The House rejected a similar amendment from Rep. Nancy York, R-Watertown. In the end Partridge, York and their forces prevailed. The Legislature will be arguing the matter again in the 2018 session.

On NPR’s live news show from Birmingham

National Public Radio conducted its Weekend Edition news program live from a public stage in Birmingham, Alabama, this morning (Saturday). I don’t know whether this setting has been used on any other occasion, but the result was intriguing. Alabama’s state auditor, a Republican, took the stage for a few minutes; as some in the audience jeered, host Scott Simon asked them to show the respect deserved. There clearly was a different attitude at points in the program’s first hour; start with the setting itself, of being on stage before a live audience, and being a guest on that stage before a live audience. The experiment (so far — the program remains under way, headed to its second hour) is a success.

UPDATE: Wonder what they do in the theater while NPR broadcasts its national news from Washington, D.C…

SECOND UPDATE: And for what it’s worth, or not, there are 50 states and a fifty-first, the District of Columbia, and there are 52 weeks in a year, so…

After years without, Gear Up seeks outside evaluator

Today (June 9) is the final day for vendors to respond to the South Dakota Department of Education’s request for proposals for an external evaluator of the Gear Up program.

Mid Central Educational Cooperative at Platte goes out of business June 30. The co-op ran Gear Up for the state Education Department until one day in mid-September 2015. That’s when Secretary Melody Schopp called then-director Dan Guericke to say ‘Sorry but we’re sending the project elsewhere.’

Elsewhere turned out to be Black Hills State University. Mid Central meanwhile is to be replaced by Core, essentially the same public schools that were in Mid Central; today they reached agreement to buy the Mid Central building in downtown Platte.

Turns out that Mid Central’s now-dead business manager Scott Westerhuis, and his now-dead wife, assistant business manager Nicole Westerhuis, allegedly were raiding Mid Central’s bank account to cover payroll at three non-profits associated with Mid Central.

Mid Central’s board pinned the blame solely on the Westerhuises. The couple, along with their four school-age children, died during the night after Schopp’s call to Guericke — and in turn after Guericke’s calls with Scott Westerhuis.

In the weeks before the deaths of the Westerhuises, the Legislature’s Government Operations and Audit Committee learned Mid Central wasn’t tracking data in the fashion that was expected from Gear Up.

The legal purpose of Gear Up was to help students from lower-income households and their families be more familiar with education opportunities after high school graduation.

Mid Central evidently didn’t have any systematic way of doing that.

A recently released review by the South Dakota Department of Legislative Audit discovered that nearly $1.4 million couldn’t be accounted in Mid Central’s transactions.

The money came into Mid Central’s bank, secretly went out to the non-profits, but didn’t all come back. Mid Central’s board didn’t grant authority for its business office to cover the non-profits’ payrolls.

This was federal money, that started in the U.S. Department of Education.

All of which brings us to June 9, the deadline today for vendors to submit their proposals to the state Education Department to serve as an outside evaluator.

Here’s what the state department wants from the vendor (this came from the actual RFP):

The Consultant will:

2.1 Conduct a formal evaluation of the GEAR UP program’s effectiveness in achieving the following program objectives with specified performance indicators in a comprehensive, ascetically-pleasing report:

2.1.1 Objective 1: Increase the academic performance and preparation for postsecondary education of GEAR UP students.

2.1.1.1 The average daily attendance of GEAR UP South Dakota (GUSD) will exceed that of non-GUSD students each year.

2.1.1.2 85% of GUSD students will be promoted to the next grade level on time each year.

2.1.1.3 The percentage of GUSD students who pass Pre-algebra by the end of the 8th grade will increase by 10% over the baseline.

2.1.1.4 The percentage of GUSD students who pass Algebra I by the end of the 9th grade will increase by 10% over the baseline.

2.1.1.5 The percentage of GUSD student who complete the PLAN or Preliminary Scholastic Aptitude Test (PSAT) by the end of the 10th grade will increase by 10% over the baseline.

2.1.1.6 The percentage of GUSD students who complete the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) of American College Test (ACT) by the end of 11th grade will increase by 10% over the baseline.

2.1.1.7 The percentage of GUSD students who have an unweighted Grade Point Average (GPA) of at least 3.0 on a 4-point scale by the end of 11th grade will increase by 10% over the baseline.

2.1.1.8 The percentage of GUSD students who take two year of mathematics beyond Algebra 1 by 12th grade will increase by 10% over the baseline.

2.1.1.9 The percentage of GUSD students in grades 6, 7, 8 & 11 performing at or above proficiency in math on the state assessment test will increase by 10% each year.

2.1.1.10 The percentage of GUSD students in grade 6, 7, 8, & 11 performing at or above proficiency in reading on the state assessment test will increase by 10% each year.

2.1.1.11 The percentage of GUSD parents who actively engage in activities associated with assisting students in their academic preparation for college will increase by 10% each year.

2.1.2 Objective 2: Increase the rate of high school graduation and participation in postsecondary education for GEAR UP students.

2.1.2.1 Increase the percentage of GUSD students who graduate high school, compared to the state average, by 2018.

2.1.2.2 50% of GUSD students will be enrolled in a postsecondary educational institution by 2018.

2.1.2.3 50% of GUSD students who enroll in postsecondary education will place into college-level math without need for remediation by 2018.

2.1.2.4 50% of GUSD students who enroll in postsecondary education will place into college-level English without need for remediation by 2018.

2.1.2.5 50% of former GUSD will be enrolled in a postsecondary educational institution by 2019.

2.1.2.6 55% of GUSD students will have accumulated the expected number of credit hours for their chosen degree in their first year attending a postsecondary education institution.

2.1.2.7 55% of former GUSD students will have accumulated the expected number of credit hours for their chosen degree each year starting in 2019.

2.1.3 Objective 3: Increase the educational expectation of GEAR UP students, and increase student and family knowledge of postsecondary education options, preparation, and financing.

2.1.3.1 The percentage of GUSD students who demonstrate knowledge on the benefits of pursuing a postsecondary education will increase by 10% each year.

2.1.3.2 The percentage of GUSD students who demonstrate knowledge of the academic preparation necessary for postsecondary education will increase by 10% each year.

2.1.3.3 The percentage of GUSD students who demonstrate knowledge on the cost of pursuing postsecondary education will increase by 10% each year.

2.1.3.4 The percentage of GUSD students who demonstrate knowledge on the availability of financial aid will increase by 10% each year (this includes Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) completion).

2.1.3.5 65% of GUSD students will aspire to continue their education after high school.

2.1.3.6 The percentage of GUSD parents who demonstrate knowledge on the benefits of pursuing a postsecondary education will increase by 10% each year starting in 2016.

2.1.3.7 The percentage of GUSD parents who demonstrate knowledge on the costs of pursuing postsecondary education will increase by 10% each year starting in 2016.

2.1.3.8 The percentage of GUSD parents who demonstrate knowledge on the availability of financial aid will increase by 10% each year starting in 2016.

The expected start date for the contract is July 10, 2017, according to the department’s RFP.  The expected finish date, which the department notes is negotiable, is Dec. 15, 2017.

Why this wasn’t in place years ago — Mid Central ran Gear Up for approximately a decade — is one of the next questions that legislators will want answered.