“I don’t take this as somebody teaching me a lesson.” (Kent Alberty, President of the Sioux Falls School Board)

The voters of the Sioux Falls School District just completed an election that may have influence beyond the border of this school district.

  1. It will be hard for surrounding districts (Brandon, Tea, Harrisburg, West Central, Sioux Falls Catholic Schools, etc.) to not adjust their schedule. Sioux Falls School District is the big elephant. So many practical considerations like when summer sports programs start and finish will now be adjusted. Plus, you have summer job considerations because employers will prefer young employees who want to start after Memorial Day and can work through Labor Day. Who wants to hire a kid early who will leave early?
  2. School boards around the state will better appreciate parents can over-rule when their concerns are ignored.
  3. Isolated “small” events often have impacts that reverberate and grow. The phrase “You can’t fight City Hall” just got a reality check. Dismiss and show disdain for your constituency can be met with a firm, organized, and motivated army.

To the extent the argument blossoms beyond the Sioux Falls School District, I think the arguments will be the same. The question is will they be handled differently in other school districts.

Pre-Labor Day argument as presented by the Sioux Falls School District:

  1. COLLEGE TESTING & SCHOLARSHIPS: Pre-Labor Day is positive for Advanced Placement and many college-bound students competing for premier college entrance and scholarships because testing is completed by Christmas and scores will be better.
  2. NATURAL SEMESTER BREAK: Pre-Labor Day is positive for Jr. & Sr. High students as semesters end before Christmas break and after Christmas break, new semesters can begin.
  3. ELEMENTARY STUDENTS: Pre-Labor Day or Post has no effect on teaching in the elementary schools.

Post-Labor Day argument as presented principally by Wendy McDonnel and Christine Erickson:

  1. Family considerations and priorities
    1. VACATIONS: Warm summer weather is basically 14 weeks long (Memorial Day to Labor Day). Starting school prior to Labor Day compresses the time available for family vacation time by almost three weeks because Labor Day is no longer able to be included in the vacation schedule.
    2. SUMMER LIESURE: May is too cool for swimming pool and other outdoor summer activities for children which again impacts summer leisure activities for children.
    3. FAMILY REUNIONS: Extended family reunions are usually scheduled for maximum participation. This requires coordination of disparate schedules. Memorial Day, 4th of July and Labor Day are three ideal scheduling opportunities. If school starts, there are only two ideal scheduling opportunities.
    4. FAMILY FINANCIAL CONSIDERATIONS: Especially in two-income families and families of more limited means, “days-off” matter. Allowing these families to utilize Holidays for vacations and visiting family positively impacts the family budget or allows possibly a family vacation with a couple hundred more dollars in the kitty. Losing one of only three Holidays is not insignificant for such families.

First, I think it wholly appropriate that the administration of the Sioux Falls School District would advocate and be passionate about a Pre-Labor Days start. To large degree, college testing, scholarships, and sending graduates to college is the culmination of 13 years of “doing their job.” I have not always agreed with Pam Homan but I’m appalled how she has been criticized and thrown under the bus by her School Board and deserves better. She did exactly what one would expect from a Superintendent- advocate what she thought best AND support the position of the School Board.

Second, parents have a broader set of priorities. While appreciating and supporting the value of a good education, parents don’t want their child to just be as smart as possible or get in the best colleges or get the most scholarships. They want their child to be balanced with a broad range of experiences. They want their child to be connected to extended family. They want their child to be instilled with their family values. Summer is when parents set the agenda and have the most unfettered opportunity to form their children as they see fit.

Third, I think it appropriate that the School Board would look at the issue beginning with the what they believed was net-net best for students as students. However, the School Board isn’t just a reflection of the administration but they are also a reflection of parents’ priorities beyond education.

This is where things got off track when the School Board took the intransigent position that AP college testing, scholarships etc. became the only measure of what is good for the children under their care and whether one places a priority on education with no consideration of parental priorities. The School Board should be looking at these children as more than students but also consider them as members of a family and society needing more than just a good education.

In the real world, there are very few issues so transcendental that all other considerations can be ignored.

  • As important as education is, does anyone think the money spent on social services for the homeless should be cut so we have more money for education?
  • Is good testing of AP students so critical that we should cut remedial programs so these seniors can have a private tutor for a year?

My stomach turns when I hear/read the following comments from School Board members or people like Stu Whitney at the Argus who show DISDAIN for parents who give family considerations and broader formation of their children priority.

Re-elected School Board Member Todd Toelke: “It shows the concern of the almighty dollar over education.”   Sure I get that tourism, retailers, summer leisure businesses wanted a later start date. But, if that is all he got out of the vote, I’m pretty sure he isn’t listening to his primary constituents- the parents of the children entrusted to him.

A person I over-heard on TV this morning. I didn’t get his name: “The voters spoke that they value when they get to take their vacation more than educating their children.” (Paraphrase)

Stu Whitney at the Argus Leader whose article today exemplifies the disregard for the “Voice in Local Control” group’s concerns and views:

  1. Equating “save our summers” with “summer fun.” Mr. Whitney, I don’t know what you remember from your summers as a child but here are some of the things I remember just from the summer of 1970:
    1. The day after school ended and over Memorial Day, a trip to Black Hills, seeing Mt. Rushmore for the first time, finding out Needles Highway wasn’t needles used to sew but stone needles, and seeing my first alligator and bear.
    2. A month living on the farm with my grandparents where I watched my Grandpa tend to the fields and cattle, ride horses with him, buy bulls, drive to Pierre & Mobridge for machinery parts, and watch him “doctor” sick calves and pigs. I’m more the man I am today from that month than I got out of any month in school.
    3. Right before school started and over Labor Day, a trip to Minneapolis for a week with my Uncle Nip’s family, go to my first and only Twins game until I was out of college and watched my favorite all-time player Harmon Killebrew hit a foul ball within six seats of us, went up on top of the Foshay Tower thinking I could see South Dakota in the distance, and getting an ice cream cone at a Dairy Queen.
  2. Asserting this was a choice between “books vs. beach.” My children are now adults but I have four Sioux Falls grandchildren. They aren’t going to any beach and the assertion the “beach” or frivolity was the priority of my daughter and son-in-law is offensive. Their other grandparents, uncles, aunts and cousins live in Kansas City. Nearly every holiday during these years because the children are young, they go to Kansas City. Christmas, Easter, Memorial Day, Labor Day, Thanksgiving. They know when they are older these trips will be fewer. For them, the choice was “AP testing vs. Family.” Mr. Whitney, it’s not even a close call.
  3. Overplaying the school date was about Tourism or money. Mr. Whitney, roughly 1/3 of your article today was dedicated to linking the issue to tourism. I know it is popular in politics to disparage opponents by attributing to them nefarious motives like greed. Maybe you don’t know Wendy McDonnel but Sioux Falls is still a just a big town. She is just one of our neighbors with sincere motives. You really should get to know her. You will be better for it.

But, not once did “Voice in Local Control” even hint it was about tourism. You have a new job where your focus isn’t just high school sports. You need to expand your circle of influence. I talked with literally dozens of people who wanted a later start date and not once was tourism or money mentioned. If that had been the primary justification, this would have been soundly defeated. If you don’t know that, you should. If you know that, your article was intellectually dishonest and slanderous.

Elections come and go. Top of mind issues come and go. Whether this decision was the “right” decision can be debated.

But, this effort led by Wendy McDonnel, who once was a cute little girl with a big smile and pig tails, just might be one of those efforts that ripples in ways we can’t foresee:

Family matters and one might want to pause before taking on a mother told otherwise.  Its a lesson I learned the summer of 1970 when I got between a cow and her calf.  



Pat’s father-in-law passed away yesterday.  I am sure the DWC is far from his thoughts.  I am not in my office today but I will see what I can find with regard to details.

(Pat’s Edit – Actually, He passed away unexpectedly & suddenly at home the day before yesterday. He had been undergoing treatment for Cancer, but this was not related to it, as far as we know. I’m holding the home fort down, as my wife headed way, way south to Arkansas yesterday to be with her siblings and help make arrangements. I’m sure there will be an obit in the Argus, as My wife’s dad was quite active in the Sioux Falls Cathedral church community, and worked for the phone company for many years.

I have no idea when & where services will be, as that’s yet to be determined.

I do thank everyone for all the condolences many of you have already sent. -PP)

Ronald Reagan is “a nice soft silky pillow … but if you took a hard punch, you would find in the middle a solid tempered-steel bar. That was the real Ronald Reagan. That was the essence of Ronald Reagan.” (Martin Anderson, 1936-2015)

In 1981, when I moved to DC to work for Senator Abdnor, there were two “social” Republican groups. These groups regularly met in the evenings, adult beverages were served, off the Capitol campus but near Capitol Hill. The members/attendees were mostly Senate and House staffers, and, with the recent inauguration of President Reagan, a sprinkling of lower level White House or Cabinet staffers. Lobbyists weren’t barred from coming but they weren’t really welcome. Members of Congress were usually only there if they were the speaker.

The Coolidge Society comprised GOP conservatives in the Dewey/Taft tradition: Socially conservative, international isolationists, and strong states rights advocates. With the recent take-over of the Senate and the new Reaganites in town, the Coolidge Society was ascendant.

The Ripon Society members were from the GOP’s more liberal and libertarian wing in the Wilkie/Eisenhower tradition. Socially liberal (affiliated with the gay Log Cabin Republicans and pro-abortion), willing to be internationally active on economic and military fronts, and libertarian on civil rights type issues. I was surprised that many of Goldwater staffers were more likely to be here than at Coolidge.

Because many of Ripon’s members had been pro-John Anderson in the 1980 Presidential election, the Ripon Society was definitely on the decline and its members were primarily from the Northeast part of the country.   It seemed the Reagan staffers who belonged to the Ripon Society seemed to be those with an international focus because the isolationism of the Coolidge Society wasn’t warm to Reagan’s Cold War strategy. While Ripon was formed in Wisconsin, it really had become the home of the “Yankee Republicans.”

Despite (and maybe because of) the differences, there was substantial cross-over members because:

  1. We were Republicans and mostly worked for Republican Congressional members. Even though we disagreed on some matters, the success of our boss’ agenda depended on us having relationships with each other.
  2. On taxes, spending, and regulation, there wasn’t a lot of difference between the Societies except often times it seemed Coolidge was more pro-regulation while Ripon had greater fidelity to the free market and civil liberties.
  3. Because these two groups were competitive for standing in town, they both worked hard at having quality speakers and the Q&A was extremely topical. Sometimes as an Abdnor staffer, I was able to get insight into the view of another Senator because of the questions another staffer was asking.
  4. In reality, these gatherings were an “excuse” to leave the office before 7 p.m. and socialize.  Congressional staffers work hard and by necessity most of our friends were from our home state. Frankly, I mostly went to the Ripon Society gatherings because a cute girl from Pennsylvania was a member.  Whether true or not, when I see Ashton Kucher’s girlfriend, I remember this gal, whose name escapes me.  Maybe I didn’t even know her name and had a crush from a distance.

I probably should say “membership” was a loose term. I don’t remember there being dues to either group or even a cover charge. I just kinda remember you labeled yourself as a member of one and a guest of the other and maybe paid a nominal amount to get an occasional newsletter. And, you seemed to be more diligent to going to one group’s gatherings or the other.

Why am I giving this background today? Last night, I saw that Martin Anderson had died.  It got me thinking of one time I was in his presence.  I never really met him but was a few times where he was.

Anderson was a long-time fellow of the Hoover Institution, Reagan’s Chief Domestic Policy Advisor, White House point person on Reaganomics, and member of the Economic Policy Advisory Board. Anderson was credited for articulating the intellectual underpinning for the Reagan-Kemp-Roth tax cuts. Even if you aren’t a Reaganite, I urge you to read something from Anderson. Anything. Personally, I think his “Reagan, in his own hand” is the best biography of Reagan out there where Anderson was essentially the editor of Reagan’s letters and speeches with commentary for context.

Martin Anderson was alternatively called a right-wing radical or the “Reagan’s Conscience” or something like that.   Senators were often frustrated because he seemed insensitive to “political realities.” Senator Abdnor as Co-Chair of the Joint Economic Committee once said to him before a committee meeting something to the effect- “This is what we are talking about. Don’t go off on your crazy economic theories.” But, another time I remember Abdnor saying to Anderson “It isn’t the same since you aren’t around all the time (Anderson commuted to and from California after a few years). Those guys need you back here.”

Anyway, probably late in Reagan’s first term but before the re-election campaign was in full swing, Anderson was the speaker at a Coolidge Society gathering. I think his talk was about what was coming with regard to economic policy now that the tax cuts had passed. I don’t remember it very well.

But, what I’m reminded of today was, when he was thanking Coolidge for the invitation to speak, he made a point to say he wanted to be invited to the Ripon Society too. My first reaction was that it is a slap in the face to his Coolidge hosts.

Anderson then explained when he was a young man just out of college it was the Ripon wing of the GOP that advanced GOP support of the Civil Rights Acts over its state’s rights inclination. And then during Anderson’s tenure with Nixon, it was Ripon that supported his intellectual thesis we should end the military draft and stood behind Nixon’s trip to China.

Anderson’s point was clear. Both Coolidge and Ripon had a role in stimulating ideas within the GOP body of thought.

Martin Anderson was more than the economic and philosophical conscience in the White House.   He was a thinker and loved ideas, even those ideas he opposed. But there are a lot of people who are like that. Abdnor and Illinois Senator Paul Simon weren’t friends because they agreed. They were friends because they disagreed.

What makes Martin Anderson special to me is that he was more than a critical cog in what we recognize as the Reagan legacy.

As Reagan began to drift away from Alzhiemers, Anderson knew the Reagan greatness might never be known to the next generation. So Anderson began his last endeavor* to use his up-close and personal experience in the Reagan inner circle to give us a glimpse of Reagan the deep thinker who mulled and contemplated both his positions and how to present them to the American people, Reagan’s basic understanding America is the people’s requiring Reagan to do more than rule but to also convince the people on the issues, and Reagan’s personal courage to see things through to the end.

In one of Anderson’s books (maybe “Revolution”), Anderson gives his explanation of Reagan’s charisma via a story where Reagan was asked why people like him and are willing to trust him. Reagan humbly replied, “When they look at me, they see themselves.”

As we now start to turn our attention to the 2016 Presidential election, maybe we should be looking for another deep thinker with great personal courage who recognizes the President is a steward of the American Experiment and not its author, one in whom we see our best selves.

Martin Anderson, American. Rest In Peace.

*Anderson’s final book will be released next month: “Ronald Reagan: Decisions of Greatness.”

(Sidenote: I’m writing this from memory. I apologize to Anderson and you if I have inadvertently misquoted him, especially the reference to “Revolution” which I can’t find anywhere (Schoenbeck, did I give you my copy?) and exactly the subject of his Coolidge talk. It has been almost 30 years.  Speaking of “Revolution” which I read about the time Reagan’s Alzheimers became public.  At the end of the book, Anderson talks about Iran-Contra.  My impression was Anderson felt Reagan had lost his physical energy because of age and being in the mid to late 70’s.  My reaction was maybe the disease had started to manifest itself, especially how Reagan could remember so little during the investigation.)

“The price of liberty is labor as well as vigilance.” (Carl Skovel)

Speaker of the House results:

Boehner: 216
Pelosi: 156
Webster: 12
Others: 24 (I think 7 were Dem’s not voting for Pelosi)

If I got the tally right, 29 GOP members voted for someone other than Boehner. Around 3-6 of the votes seemed grounded in a personal problem with Boehner. But, around 25 voted out of conviction and I think that took courage.

If their conviction was grounded in an idea the Republic is served by pushing issues that will go nowhere and will make people in the middle to doubt Republicans are fit to serve, I disagree.  This fiasco of government policy wasn’t built in a day and I don’t believe it will torn down in a day.  This will take hard work and not every battle is equal to other battles.  I deeply and sincerely believe prudence and diligent focus on the long-run and big issues will serve America best and not less significant or short-term gains.

But, for many of them who didn’t vote for Boehner, I see a sincere expression wanting to have this majority mean something for the good of the Republic. This includes passing the most conservative legislation that will be RELUCTANTLY accepted by President Obama (moving the ball forward).  None of us will get everything we want.  But, hopefully, we can see steady progress toward a government that serves our interests vs. one that expects us to serve the government.

And yes, it will sometimes mean passing legislation that will be vetoed but will compare and contrast the differences between the two parties.  We have a Presidential election in 2016 and a full and open debate of these differences is necessary for a successful Republic.

And, personally, I’m glad this will include Keystone, first hopefully a repeal and then incremental changes in Obamacare, and real reforms in government and spending.