Governor Daugaard’s Weekly Column: Studying South Dakota’s Education System With An Open Mind


Studying South Dakota’s Education System With An Open Mind
A column by Gov. Dennis Daugaard:

Daugaard South Dakotans all share three goals for our education system. First, we want a quality system of schools focused on student success. Second, we want a workforce of great teachers. Finally, we want an efficient, equitable funding system that supports those goals.

Earlier this year, I joined with legislative leaders to create the Blue Ribbon Task Force on Teachers and Students. This task force will seek public input, collect and analyze data, and make recommendations to the 2016 State Legislature for reform.

The first step has already begun. Over the past couple of months, task force members have been holding meetings to seek public input. They have met with teachers and administrators, parents, business people and interested members of the public. The agenda is simple: the task force is there to listen.

Over the next couple of weeks, several more meetings are being held so that members of the public can offer input. An up-to-date schedule of public input meetings is available at Citizens can also email their input to the task force at that site. I encourage all South Dakotans to take advantage of these opportunities to participate in the process.

So far, these public meetings demonstrate the value that South Dakotans place on education. They want to have the people, facilities and resources to provide a quality education to our young people. Many ideas and suggestions have come forward – everything from a longer school year, to consolidation or sharing among small districts, to differential pay for high-demand teaching fields, to increased funding through a new tax.

Ideas like these can be controversial and I know they will lead to more discussion. That is why I have asked the task force to consider all viewpoints, honestly consider all available data and use good judgment as it recommends reforms. This process does not have a predetermined outcome and, at this point, no options should be taken off the table.

I hope everyone will wait to judge the process until it ends, and will consider the task force’s recommendations with an open mind. That is what I will do.


Gov. Daugaard Names Additional Members To Blue Ribbon Task Force

Gov. Daugaard Names Additional Members To Blue Ribbon Task Force

DaugaardPIERRE, S.D. – Gov. Dennis Daugaard today announced the appointment of thirteen new members to the Blue Ribbon Task Force.

“I joined with legislators to create the Blue Ribbon Task Force because all South Dakotans want to ensure that we have a school funding system that provides a great education to our young people, based on great teachers,” said the Governor. “There was strong interest in participating in this task force, and I thank these appointees for committing their time and thoughtful consideration to this important issue.”

The new task force members are:

· Dave Davis, Rapid City – member of the Rapid City Area School District Board of Education

· Dr. Becky Guffin, Aberdeen – superintendent of Aberdeen School District

· Vicki Harmdierks, Mitchell – principal of Gertie Belle Rogers Elementary School

· LuAnn Lindskov, Timber Lake – math and science teacher at Timber Lake High School and 2013 South Dakota Teacher of the Year

· Dr. Brian Maher, Sioux Falls – incoming superintendent of Sioux Falls School District

· DeLon Mork, Madison

· Steven O’Brien, Watertown – English teacher at Watertown High School

· Erik Person, Burke – superintendent of Burke School District

· Beth Pietila, Yankton

· Dr. Michael Rush, Pierre – incoming executive director of SD Board of Regents

· Jim Scull, Rapid City

· Eric Stroeder, Mobridge – member of Mobridge School District Board of Education and incoming president of Associated School Boards of South Dakota

· Kevin Tetzlaff, Brookings

These appointees will join the 13 members named earlier this year, to complete the 26-member task force.

The Blue Ribbon Task Force will continue to hold public input meetings throughout the summer. Beginning in July, the entire task force will meet to consider public input, analyze data and discuss ideas for reform. The task force will make recommendations to Gov. Daugaard and to the 2016 State Legislature.

Learn more about the Blue Ribbon Task Force and view the schedule of upcoming meetings at


Governor Dennis Daugaard’s Weekly Column: The Good Old Summertime – Outdoors In South Dakota


The Good Old Summertime – Outdoors In South Dakota
A column by Gov. Dennis Daugaard:

DaugaardWhen I was a young boy, I couldn’t wait for summer. After nine months of school, June meant a break from studies and long, adventure-filled days outdoors in South Dakota.

Oh, sure, I still had work to do, just like most kids who grew up on the farms and in the small towns of South Dakota. I worked in the bean fields, did chores around the farm and helped in any other ways the family needed.

But when the work was done, I spent many warm, lazy days canoeing on the Big Sioux River, swimming and exploring the wooded areas along the river bottom. Summer also meant 4-H camp, a great opportunity to meet other young South Dakotans and share the activities and crafts of the 4-H program.

Once, on a family visit to the Black Hills, my sisters and I had the incredible experience of riding in a helicopter to view Mount Rushmore up close. I’ll never forget that, just as I’ll never forget the simpler times spent outdoors in our great state. I grew up with a respect and deep affection for South Dakota’s outdoors.

Many things have changed in South Dakota since I was a youngster, but the outdoor opportunities remain. In fact, opportunities have greatly expanded. People of all ages have more choices for outdoor activities today than we ever did when I was young. Think of all the bike paths in the communities, the swimming pools, the hiking adventures, the day camps and the summer recreation programs that invite boys and girls to get outside and get active.

More than that, think of all the facilities and recreation opportunities provided through the work of our Game, Fish and Parks Department. The department has upgraded and expanded trails, campgrounds, boating facilities and outdoor programs tremendously in recent years. If there’s something you want to do outdoors, Game, Fish and Parks probably has a program for you. Whether you want the experience of spending time in a modern campground or fishing pond, or you just want to take your son or daughter for a walk on a nature trail, you can do it here in South Dakota.

To recognize what an abundance of opportunities we all have in South Dakota, I recently declared June as “Great Outdoors Month.’’ It’s a way to encourage each of our citizens to connect or re-connect with nature in a safe and healthy way. It’s a celebration of the fun that’s to be had outdoors here in South Dakota.

And, if you wish, you can still take a helicopter ride to see Mount Rushmore up close the way I did as a youngster.

There’s a lot to do outdoors in South Dakota in the summer. Take advantage of the opportunities! Maybe we’ll meet along the trails.


Governor Daugaard’s Weekly Column: Appreciation For Law Enforcement

Appreciation For Law Enforcement
A column by Gov. Dennis Daugaard:

We are fortunate to live in a relatively safe state. We tend to leave our cars running in the winter; we let our kids play outside; and, in some places, people lock their car doors not worrying about theft, but because they don’t want their neighbors leaving them any more zucchini.

It’s true that less populated places tend to be safer, but our public safety is not owed solely to our rural nature. It is also thanks to our law enforcement.

Those who enforce our laws live selfless lives. They’re courageous, hardworking and dedicated individuals. They work long hours and willingly put themselves in harm’s way to protect South Dakotans. They don’t simply serve to reprimand those who don’t follow the law, but to help those in need. State troopers will often stop to help someone change a flat tire. They come to the rescue when someone is stranded on the road during a blizzard. Police officers and deputy sheriffs lead the processionals for local funerals and they support their communities when disaster strikes. Our state, local and tribal law enforcement officers are critically important to our communities, and they deserve our appreciation.

We also owe a debt of gratitude to the families of law enforcement officers. These families also make sacrifices. They must adjust to overtime, odd hours and emergencies. They patiently endure as their loved ones risk their lives to keep us safe. They assume brave faces even as they worry whether their spouse or parent will come home safe and sound.

It’s easy to forget that our safe South Dakota is not the norm. There are many places in the world today where people live in chaos because laws are not enforced – where people face daily uncertainty over whether they’ll be able to protect themselves and their families.

Because of the men and women who enforce our laws South Dakota is not one of those places and we are able to live in a safe and free society.

To all of our state, local, and tribal law enforcement officers and their families, thank you for keeping us safe. Though we probably don’t show it nearly enough, South Dakotans are grateful for your service.


Governor Daugaard’s Weekly Column: A Proud Week For South Dakota

A Proud Week For South Dakota
A column by Gov. Dennis Daugaard:

This past week has shown us, yet again, why we can be proud to be South Dakotans.

On Friday, May 8, our state welcomed President Barack Obama to Watertown. Linda and I were honored to greet the President at the airport and to join his motorcade as he rode to the Civic Arena. Thousands of people lined the entire four-mile route – waving, cheering and holding American flags. Members of the national media who travel with the President commented on the impressive display. 

It was all the more impressive because, based on election returns, many of those who turned out probably don’t support President Obama politically. But this was not a day for politics – it was a day for patriotism. We welcomed our nation’s President to South Dakota, and I was proud of the reception and the respect Watertown showed.

President Obama delivered the commencement address at Lake Area Technical Institute and recognized LATI as one of the nation’s best two-year institutions. His speech focused on several of the graduates who had faced adversity and had come to LATI to seek a better life. The President recognized the values of hard work and self-reliance that make South Dakota a great state. All across South Dakota on that same weekend, thousands of hard-working students celebrated a successful college graduation, in a similar way.

On Sunday morning, I was back in Pierre. Our family was enjoying a Mother’s Day brunch after church. In Delmont, families were doing much the same – spending time with friends and family. Then, out of nowhere, a tornado came from the south and tore through the west side of town.

I arrived in Delmont mid-afternoon. The devastation and destruction were even worse than had been reported. Dozens of homes were damaged, along with the city’s brand-new fire hall and the beautiful Zion Lutheran Church. I was saddened by the great loss of property, but grateful that no one was killed or critically injured.

And, once again, I was inspired by the people of South Dakota. Delmont’s citizens joined together to help their neighbors. Local officials set aside their personal losses to coordinate the city’s response. With the Delmont fire hall destroyed, firemen from Armour and Tripp came to Delmont’s aid. Power linesmen were immediately on the scene, working to restore power. The people of Delmont began to clean up their city and comfort those who suffered losses.

Yet again, the worst of Mother Nature brought out the best in South Dakota. Just as we’ve seen again and again – during the Missouri and Big Sioux River floods, Winter Storm Atlas, and the Wessington Springs tornado – South Dakotans stepped up to help their neighbors.

In South Dakota, we love our country. We work hard to advance ourselves. And we step up to help our neighbors when disaster strikes. That’s why this week made me proud, still again, to be a South Dakotan.


Governor Daugaard’s Weekly Column: South Dakota’s Upgrade To AAA

South Dakota’s Upgrade To AAA
A column by Gov. Dennis Daugaard:

DaugaardWe recently received word that Standard & Poor’s has upgraded South Dakota to a AAA credit rating. This is great news for South Dakota. By moving from AA+ to AAA, we join a very exclusive group of states to which Standard and Poor’s has given its highest credit rating.

It took a lot of effort for our state to earn this upgrade. The Lieutenant Governor and Chief Financial Officer met three times with S&P officials, in Pierre and in New York, to discuss South Dakota’s credit rating. Following their first meeting in 2012, we adopted a number of new financial practices, including the release of more financial information to the public and a new debt policy, to accompany the voters’ approval of a balanced budget amendment to our state constitution.

In large part, our new AAA status is the result of our budgetary practices. In 2011 we balanced the budget without raising taxes or spending reserve funds. Each year thereafter, we’ve continued that stewardship by projecting our revenues and expenses with caution, so if we err, we err on the side of a surplus not a deficit. A year ago, after receiving an unexpected windfall, we used the money to retire bonds early and to pay cash for our new veterans’ home rather than borrowing.

These practices along with the state’s fully funded pension system and lack of liabilities led S&P to award South Dakota the highest credit rating.

This upgrade is not just a symbolic victory for South Dakota. There are tangible benefits of having a AAA credit rating. Although our constitution prohibits debt, the South Dakota Building Authority and South Dakota Health and Educational Facilities Authority borrow to finance public construction projects like state park projects and public university projects. The upgrade of our bond rating will not only give the financial markets affirmation of our state’s exceptional credit worthiness, but also save substantial amounts in future interest payments. That means our AAA rating will bring savings for universities, state parks and, ultimately, taxpayers.

As the nation and some states have experienced downgrades, the AAA rating South Dakota has received from S&P is an indication that we’re on the right track. We don’t spend money we don’t have. We keep our budget in structural balance. We are frugal and seize opportunities to spend in the short term where it can lead to savings, efficiencies or better government in the long term.

We work hard to keep our state on a firm financial footing, and this is just the latest example of how that stewardship is paying dividends.


Gov. Daugaard To Appoint Fiegen To District 25 State Senate Seat

Gov. Daugaard To Appoint Fiegen To District 25 State Senate Seat

fiegenPIERRE, S.D. – Gov. Dennis Daugaard announced today that he will appoint Scott Fiegen of Dell Rapids to the vacant seat in the state Senate representing District 25. Fiegen will succeed Sen. Tim Rave, who resigned earlier this year.

“Scott Fiegen is a leader in his community, and the voters of Dell Rapids have expressed their confidence in him many times,” said Gov. Daugaard. “I thank him for taking on this new role as a state senator, and I am confident he will serve District 25 well.”

Fiegen currently serves as the mayor of Dell Rapids. After serving as a city alderman from 1998 to 2001, he served as mayor from 2001 to 2007 and returned to the office in 2009. He works as director of software engineering for Meta Payment Systems in Sioux Falls.

“I am thankful for the confidence Gov. Daugaard has placed in me,” said Fiegen. “I am excited for this new opportunity and look forward to working for the people of District 25 and the state of South Dakota.”

Fiegen and his wife, Teri, have two grown children. They have been actively involved in their community and attend St. Mary Catholic Church in Dell Rapids.

The appointment is effective immediately. Fiegen will serve the remainder of Sen. Rave’s term, which expires after the 2016 general election. District 25 includes north and east Minnehaha County, including the cities of Dell Rapids, Baltic, Garretson, Colton, Lyons, Valley Springs and Rowena. It also includes the area in eastern Sioux Falls near South Sycamore Avenue and East 26th Street.



Governor Daugaard’s Weekly Column: A Message To The Graduating Classes Of 2015

A Message To The Graduating Classes Of 2015


A column by Gov. Dennis Daugaard:


Congratulations to the class of 2015! To all high school, college and technical school students now approaching graduation in South Dakota, I commend you for reaching this milestone. After years of studying, taking tests and writing essays, you’ve finally made it. Congratulations on all you have achieved!


Most of you probably already have a good idea of what you’ll be doing next – what additional education you’ll seek or what career you’ll pursue. Whether you’ve decided to stay in South Dakota or pursue a career or education elsewhere, I hope you’ll ultimately consider a future here in our state. There are a number of reasons to consider living and working here.


First, we have the fourth lowest unemployment rate in the nation at 3.5 percent, compared to the national rate of 5.5 percent. Job opportunities are better here than in most places.


Secondly, the tax burden in South Dakota is low. We are among only a few states without an income tax, meaning you can keep more of the money you earn. Money that can repay student debt, buy a house someday or replace that car you drove into the ground in school.


Third, not only do people keep more of the money they earn in South Dakota, but that money will buy more here than in other places. According to a U.S. Department of Commerce report, South Dakotans experience a very low cost of living in the United States. We don’t spend as much money on housing, insurance, food and the other everyday needs. In fact, we have some of the lowest costs in the nation.  In New York, California, Washington, D.C., or many other places, you will find costs that are 10 percent, 12 percent, even 18 percent higher than the national average.  In South Dakota those costs are only 88 percent of the national average.


Now some people will say, “There may a low tax burden and low cost of living, but I won’t get paid as much if I live in South Dakota.” Actually, when it comes to per capita personal income, we fare pretty well. Nationally, we rank in the top half. And, if you adjust the per capita personal income for the low cost of living, we are the fifthbest in the nation. If you adjust for lack of income taxes, we rank third in the nation.


Beyond the financial reasons, though, South Dakota is a great place to live because we have a good quality of life here. Our communities are safe, our public schools are high-quality and our people are friendly. We also have clean air, clean water and beautiful scenery.  And you can’t put a price tag on the love and support of your family, here in South Dakota.


My hope is not that you will never venture outside of our state, but rather that you would consider a more permanent future in South Dakota. Your dreams can come true – right here at home.




Governor Daugaard’s Weekly Column: Celebrating Agriculture’s Leadership In Conservation

Celebrating Agriculture’s Leadership In Conservation
A column by Gov. Dennis Daugaard:

DaugaardIn South Dakota, agriculture is a tradition and a way of life. As our No. 1 industry, agriculture defines who we are as South Dakotans and the practices that we pass on from generation to generation.

One of those practices is conservation. No one understands the importance of being good stewards of the land better than our farmers and ranchers. Their livelihoods depend on it. Because 80 percent of land in our state is privately owned, conservation efforts employed by farmers and ranchers are integral to the quality of our natural resources.

Each year in conjunction with Earth Day, South Dakota Cattlemen’s Association, South Dakota Grassland Coalition and Sand County Foundation bestow the Leopold Conservation Award on a farming or ranching family that demonstrates outstanding land, water and wildlife conservation.

This year’s Leopold Conservation Award recipient, Jorgensen Land and Cattle, knows what it means to be a good steward of the land. The Jorgensens’ management style on their farm and ranch near Ideal – which consists of 10,000 acres of non-irrigated cropland, 850 head of cattle and a hunting lodge – demonstrates that good conservation practices can benefit the environment and a family’s bottom line. They believe the soil is their greatest asset, which is why they have been no-till since 1991. Their decisions are always based on a personal responsibility to care for and improve the land.

I congratulate the Jorgensens on winning this award. I am grateful for their stewardship and for all landowners across South Dakota who treat the environment with such care. Their passion and dedication help ensure our natural resources will be there for generations to come.


Governor Daugaard’s Weekly Column: The Excellence Of The South Dakota National Guard

The Excellence Of The South Dakota National Guard
A column by Gov. Dennis Daugaard:

DaugaardAs the commander-in-chief of the South Dakota National Guard, I know well the role the National Guard plays in defending our nation and responding to domestic emergencies here in our state. I’ve witnessed their service firsthand while visiting members in Kuwait and Afghanistan, and I appreciated their service when they were called to respond to emergencies here at home.

Not long after I came into office, the Missouri River flooded. Though we received very little notice, the National Guard was ready to respond. In a matter of hours, soldiers arrived on the scene to help with sandbagging, traffic management, levee construction and patrols. Nearly 2,000 Guardsmen came to affected communities to help with the response, and they worked for 96 continuous days in 12- to 15-hour shifts.

For this and all other major weather disasters we’ve faced over the past five years – the 2012 drought, Winter Storm Atlas, flooding along the Missouri and Big Sioux, and the Wessington Springs tornado – the National Guard has been there to lend a hand to South Dakotans.

Beyond responding to disasters here at home, many of our National Guard soldiers have served abroad. Since the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the National Guard has deployed more than 7,200 soldiers and airmen overseas and at home in support of the Global War on Terror. Right now, for the first time in a decade, none of our National Guard soldiers or airmen are currently deployed overseas.

That will change in May, when the 114 Fighter Wing will deploy to the Pacific Theater. South Dakotans stand in support of the 250 airmen of that unit and we are grateful for their commitment to answer the call of duty abroad. It is because of their sacrifice and the sacrifices made by others who have served that we are free. Thanks to them, we live in a place where we have freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, freedom of the press, freedom of religion, and more.

The soldiers and airmen of the South Dakota National Guard are some of the most dedicated, capable, and reliable men and women I’ve ever known. For over 153 years, this leading force has been dedicated to serving the citizens of South Dakota and the nation. Now more than ever, the National Guard is seeking quality men and women to be part of this professional, respected, dependable and highly-skilled force.

I encourage those looking to be a part of a winning team to join this elite organization. Be a part of the history, tradition and legacy that is our South Dakota National Guard. Visit for more information.