Petition Calls for SD Education Secretary Resignation

Melody Schopp

South Dakota Education Secretary Melody Schopp

South Dakota Citizens for Accountability in State Government has put together a petition calling for the resignation of South Dakota Secretary of Education Melody Schopp.

The impetus which led to the petition was the recent news about alleged mismanagement of Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs (GEAR UP) education grants and a connected murder/suicide, and a letter from South Dakota State Representative Lance Russell calling on Schopp to step down.

In his call for Schopp’s resignation, Russell cited concerns over the GEAR UP funds in specific, and lack of oversight for millions of dollars of taxpayer funds flowing through the South Dakota Department of Education in general.

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On September 16, the state of South Dakota terminated a $4.3 million contract with Mid-Central Educational Cooperative where Scott Westerhuis was business manager. The next day, Westerhuis killed his wife and four children before setting their house afire and killing himself.

Conflicts of interest, incestuous government/business relationships, no-bid contracts, sweetheart deals and the like have become the norm in South Dakota, a state that in recent years has been rocked by things like the EB-5 “cash for visas” scandal, a connected suspicious suicide, and similar shenanigans.  The Westerhuis murder/suicide quickly reminds one of the odd “shotgun blast to the abdomen” suicide of EB-5’s Richard Benda.

After the Westerhuis murder/suicide, the GEAR UP program was shut down, reminiscent of the end of South Dakota’s EB-5 program.  Apparently South Dakota’s EB-5 program, the brainchild of Leftist U.S. Senator Ted Kennedy, was so bad that even the federal government couldn’t stomach its continued existence.

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The petition calling on Schopp to resign reads:

Education is SUPPOSED to be about the improvement and well-being of the next generation. Learning is supposed to be about seeking and discovering the truth. Unfortunately, the coming generation is the victim of academic fads and social experimentation. The “New Math,” the “Open Classroom,” “Values Clarification,” “Cooperative Learning,” “Outcome-Based Education,” “No Child Left Behind,” and more recently “Common Core” and “Race To The Top” have helped build the administrative and bureaucratic “EMPIRE.” With the recent tragedies in the small town of Platte I feel strongly that someone needs to be held accountable. With that said, Rep.Lance Russell is calling for Sec. Melody Schopp’s resignation.I encourage everyone to sign on and support Rep. Russell bring accountability to SD State Government.

As the petition alludes to, many people have been very unhappy with the stealthy–then heavy-handed–manner in which state government latched onto the big-government Common Core education standards, as well as the way the education and Republican establishments seem to guard their holdings the way a dog guards its food bowl.

Most South Dakota Republicans once took great heart in the fact that Republicans controlled the overwhelming majority of positions in the executive and legislative branch of state government; and of course the party in power gets to appoint many of the judicial posts as well.

However, it seems the axiom about absolute power tending to corrupt absolutely is proving itself true, with South Dakota government being run by Governor Dennis Daugaard, legislative leaders and other establishment “Republicans” like a Third World banana republic where corruption is the order of the day, and accountability is a discarded concept. These days, the “Republican” Party establishment is characterized by the kind of corruption and “wall of silence” demeanor we used to only see in America from the Democrat Party.

You can sign the petition here.


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Bob Ellis has been the owner of media company Dakota Voice, LLC since 2005. He is a 10-year U.S. Air Force veteran, a political reporter and commentator for the past decade, and has been involved in numerous election and public policy campaigns for over 20 years. He was a founding member and board member of the Tea Party groups Citizens for Liberty and the South Dakota Tea Party Alliance. He lives in Rapid City, South Dakota with his wife and two children.
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