PIERRE | The South Dakota Senate could decide this afternoon whether former legislator Jacqueline Sly of Rapid City and Aberdeen public schools superintendent Becky Guffin join the state Board of Education Standards.
The Senate Education Committee held hearings Thursday on their appointments. Senators voted 6-1 to recommend Guffin. They voted for Sly 5-2.
Sly and Guffin received strong support from education organizations at the hearings. No witnesses spoke against Guffin. Sly faced opposition from a critic of the Common Core education framework.
Gov. Dennis Daugaard appointed Guffin and Sly last year. The Senate confirmation votes could come Friday afternoon.
The women sat together in the second row of seats in the room before the hearing began. The panel’s chairman set operating rules beforehand. Testimony would be 15 up to minutes for each nominee, Sen. Jim Bolin, R-Canton, said.
“We need to move this forward and get the testimony on the record today,” Bolin said.
The vote was 5-2 recommending the Senate confirm her nomination.
Guffin explained her background to the committee, from the fifteen years she taught elementary classes, to her service on the governor’s blue-ribbon task force on school funding and teacher salaries.
Endorsing Guffin were:
• Wade Pogany, executive director for the Associated School Boards of South Dakota;
• Dianna Miller, a lobbyist for the larger school districts throughout South Dakota;
• Sen. Al Novstrup, R-Aberdeen;
• Rob Monson, executive director for the School Administrators of South Dakota;
• Mitch Richter, an education lobbyist and a former legislator;
• Mary McCorkle, president of the South Dakota Education Association; and
• Watertown schools superintendent Jeff Danielsen, president of the South Dakota school superintendents association.
“She comes from a wonderful family and cares deeply about people,” Novstrup said about Guffin.
Sly is a retired teacher. She took the committee through the communities where she had taught. “Most of my career has been in special ed,” she said.
Sly, a Republican, served eight years in the state House of Representatives. She also was a member of the governor’s blue-ribbon task force on school funding and teacher salaries.
Because she was term-limited after four consecutive elections in the House, Sly challenged Sen. Phil Jensen, R-Rapid City, in the 2016 primary election and lost.
Jensen is a member of the Senate committee that considered Sly’s nomination Thursday.
Sly was House Education Committee chairman in her final years as a lawmaker. She told senators Thursday that statewide K-12 standards are “the foundation” but local school boards must continue in charge of basic decisions such as the curriculum of courses taught.
Testifying for Sly were:
• Pogany, who said her courage was one of the reasons she is qualified for the board;
• Miller, who described Sly’s qualifications as “remarkable,” especially in special education;
• Sen. Gary Cammack, R-Union Center;
• Richter, who said “behind the scenes she (Sly) was a leader;” and Monson, who said she was “tough as nails.”
Testifying against Sly was Florence Thompson of Caputa. Thompson said she represented a parents group.
“She was soundly defeated in her district very recently,” Thompson said about Sly’s primary loss to Jensen. Thompson said parents in her circle want the Common Core framework stopped.
“We do have Common Core,” Thompson said. “I’m trying to explain: People don’t like these standards, standards she’s promoted.”
She urged the committee to “respect the voters.”
Bolin allowed rebuttal. Sly said the Legislature didn’t have a voice in whether Common Core standards became South Dakota policy. The state board made the decision to adopt Common Core in late 2010 as the Rounds administration ended, Sly said.
Jensen asked Sly several questions after the rebuttal. His final query was whether she supported “the sexuality” he said Common Core “has brought to the classroom.”
“It’s basically pornographic,” Jensen told her about a book he said he saw in a school library.
Bolin said he disagreed with Sly on various matters but found her “fair-minded” during the eight years they served together in the House.