It seems that being an advocate for your occupation is becoming a lost art.
At the college and university level, we have the South Dakota Council of Higher Education that exists to continually improve the quality and integrity of higher education through vigorous advocacy on behalf of the bargaining unit.
At the prekindergarten-12th grade public education level we have the South Dakota Education Association, whose mission is advocating new directions for public education and whose vision is a great public school for every student. Other content specific organizations exist to advocate on behalf of their members' rights. Whatever the organization, now is the time to get involved and advocate on behalf of your chosen profession.
A disturbing precedent has recently been established in Wisconsin. According to the Milwaukee Wisconsin Journal Sentinel, the state Supreme Court ... ordered the reinstatement of Gov. Scott Walker's controversial plan to end most collective bargaining for tens of thousands of public workers. Might something similar be in the works for South Dakota?
As it stands right now, South Dakota public workers do not have the right to strike. Nor do we abide by binding arbitration. Without collective bargaining, the individual employee has no meaningful power in contract negotiation. The public worker is left with, "Take it or leave it. We'll treat you as we see fit."
The Wisconsin precedent should send up warning flags to all public employees in South Dakota.
The same is true in legislation. For example, last year Gov. Dennis Daugaard, with majority support of the South Dakota Legislature, proposed a 10 percent cut to education funding. Thanks to successful advocacy from SDEA and other groups, the actual cut of K-12 education was only 6.6 percent.
Without a voice in legislation, predominantly through lobbying and education of our representatives, what further cuts might be in store for public workers? By getting involved in professional organizations, public employees get a voice that can be heard and the power to take action.
But sometimes it is not enough to just be a member; it is equally important to become aware of the issues.
For example, the South Dakota Democratic Party has obtained enough signatures for House Bill 1230, which would divert money from the state's general fund to a large project development fund, [to] now be placed on the 2012 general election ballot. It is this type of grass roots effort that will send a message to the governor that education funding is a priority in South Dakota.
Advocacy can take many forms. If you prefer not to be active in a professional organization, contact your elected representatives at both the state and national level, and tell them what you think about a particular issue.
Volunteer for an outreach activity, attend town hall meetings and cracker barrel sessions, or participate in petition-signing and get-out-the-vote initiatives. If you cannot contribute time, consider a financial contribution.
Whatever form of advocacy you choose, now is the time to let your voice be heard.
Alan L. Neville is an associate professor of education at Northern State University. The views are his and do not represent Northern State University.