Hundreds of bills are written, revised, amended and either passed, killed or vetoed each year for a quick 40 days in Pierre.
This year was no exception, with education as one of the hot-topic items on the agenda: Everything from curriculum and new buildings and facilities on campuses, to expanding Indigenous education and preventing transgender girls and women from playing sports.
The 2021 legislative session ended its 36th day on March 11, and will reconvene at the end of March to reconsider any potential executive vetoes and close the session.
Here’s a look at what passed, what failed and what issues or topics may resurface next year, as well as what the issues could mean for your student:
Inclusion, curriculum and accountability
ALMOST LAW: House Bill 1217
Gov. Kristi Noem has expressed her intention to sign this bill, which would prevent trans girls and women from playing on the sports teams that reflect their gender identity. The bill was promoted as “fairness in women’s sports” and sparked protests outside the Governor’s mansion last week.
Passed on March 8, the bill has not yet been signed as of Monday.
FAILED: House Bill 1279
A bill that would have appropriated $900,000 in one-time funds toward the development of K-12 civics and history curriculum was tabled in the appropriations committee. It would have created instructional materials and classroom resources specific to South Dakota history, civics, government, geography and economics.
Noem had pushed for this expenditure in her budget address, and said the curriculum should educate why the “U.S. is the most special nation in the history of the world.”
SIGNED: Senate Bill 177
Noem signed legislation that will help parents set their children up for a “lifetime of success,” she said. Under this new law, students receiving alternative instruction or homeschooling can participate in athletics, fine arts or other activities sponsored by the SDHSAA via statewide mandate.
The bill also removes testing mandates for students in alternative instruction in fourth, eighth and eleventh grades and includes language related to accountability in truancy and in providing alternative instruction or schooling to students.
Four bills that would have expanded Indigenous education in South Dakota failed this legislative session.
FAILED: House Bill 1044
One bill which would have transferred the Office of Indian Education back to the Department of Education (HB 1044) died in committee. Sen. Troy Heinert, a Democrat from Mission and one of the bill’s prime sponsors, said he may bring the bill back in next year’s session.
“It really needs to go back to the Department of Education,” Heinert said. “Removing the office from the DOE just doesn’t make any sense. Education is about educating the whole child. Having a tribal voice in those other meetings is extremely important.”
FAILED: House Bill 1108
Another bill that would have permitted the playing of an honor song or Lakota Flag Song at graduation ceremonies failed to be placed on the calendar. Lawmakers may work at the local level to ask school districts to include this programming in ceremonies, Heinert said.
FAILED: House Bill 1187
Akin to Noem’s push for a civics curriculum specific to South Dakota was Rep. Shawn Bordeaux’s bill, House Bill 1187, which would have required schools to provide instruction on the state’s tribal history, culture and government. The bill failed in committee as DOE lobbyists argued it was already incorporated into curriculum. Lawmakers may take up the issue again in the future.
FAILED: Senate Bill 68
Four Oceti Sakowin schools would have been built across the state, including in Rapid City, if this bill passed. The schools would have taught the language and culture of the Lakota, Dakota and Nakota.
Heinert said he’s pleased Rapid City will consider creating a magnet school to accomplish the same goal as the bill, but that “we’ll see how committed they are to this endeavor.” If another bill needs to be written to address the topic in future sessions, he would bring it.
“This has been a long time coming, being able to educate our students in our own way with an academically rigorous curriculum that’s culturally appropriate and uses what’s in our DNA on how to educate our children,” he said.
PASSED: Senate Bill 171 and House Bill 1210
The South Dakota Board of Regents said it met its top two budget priorities this session: creating a $50 million needs-based scholarship endowment, and put $20 million in funding toward a public/private bioprocessing initiative at the South Dakota State University research park in Brookings.
The South Dakota Freedom Scholarship endowment bill, or SB 171, still awaits Noem’s signature. It appropriates that $50 million from the general fund to create a needs-based scholarship endowment for students from South Dakota, who will attend any institution of education beyond the high school level within the state.
PASSED: Senate Bill 156
A new Mineral Industry Building at South Dakota School of Mines & Technology was third in line for the Regents’ priorities this year, spokeswoman Janelle Toman said. SB 156 authorizes the college to build the new building and raze the old one for an estimated $35 million, with $19 million of those costs from state general funds.
Proponents had claimed the building was not up-to-date and when trains went by, it would mess with the calibration instruments engineering students use on a regular basis.
PASSED: Senate Bill 28 AND House Bill 1153
Another bill introduced on behalf of the Regents this year, SB 28, passed both the Senate and House. Toman said this bill gives the Regents the legislative authority needed to spend privately-raised money and donated funds toward a $3.9 million addition to the Jackrabbit Complex.
Also passed is HB 1153, which appropriates $7.5 million to a new dairy research and extension farm at SDSU.
FAILED: House Bill 1134 and House Bill 1240
Two failed bills brought forward without board of regents requests sought funds to complete renovations or expansion projects already underway or nearly complete, Toman said.
Proponents for HB 1134, a $6.5 million appropriation to the National Music Museum on University of South Dakota’s campus, had hoped for funding to design and complete exhibit space and to support technical aspects of conserving the collection.
Redesign and renovation at Berg Agricultural Hall at SDSU was already underway through a building committee, but the $2 million request in HB 1240 had sought funding to finish renovation of some labs and classroom space.
Here’s a look at other higher education projects that did not move forward:
- House Bill 1188 would have appropriated funds to the regents for a nurse anesthesia program at USD
- House Bill 1209 would have appropriated funds to the regents to purchase $20 million in debt
- Senate Bill 191 would have given $600,000 to the regents to study the need for, and future renovation of SDSU’s meat lab
- Senate Bill 192 would have given $3.5 million to the regents to upgrade the field station at SDSU
Toman said for the projects that didn’t move forward this session, the universities will continue to fundraise, seek private donor support, and identify other available resources within their budgets.
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- US Department of Education Announces More Biden-Harris Appointees | US – U.S. Department of Education