South Dakota’s legislative session opened with the Governor’s State of the State address on Tuesday (1/11) with proposals related to public schools getting some of the attention.
Gov. Kristi Noem stated early in her State of the State address South Dakota was stronger than it had ever been, adding the state is “proudly leading the nation” and noted “we are leading with strong schools.”
Among the school related topics touched upon by Gov. Noem was House Bill 1015, which requires a moment of silence in schools at the start of the day. The bill would require schools to start each day with a period of time for “students and school employees may engage in voluntary prayer, reflection, meditation, or other quiet, respectful activity during the moment of silence.”
HB 1015 goes on to note, “Nothing in this Act may be construed to permit schools to conduct the moment of silence as a religious exercise.”
“In our public schools, prayer is absent. It’s forbidden,” Gov. Noem said, adding the bill will reinstitute “a right that has been absent in our schools for far too long.”
ASBSD opposes the bill, which has been assigned to the House Education committee, based on the Association’s Local Governance Standing Position that was passed by our member schools during the 2021 Delegate Assembly.
Senate Bill 46, which changes process of participation in girls’ sports, was also mentioned by Gov. Noem during her address.
Gov. Noem said the proposal “will be the strong law in the nation” for ensuring “only girls can play in girls sports today.” SB 46 aims to permit only biological females to participate in women’s sports and, in its current form, would grant an athlete “a private cause of action for injunctive relief” against a school district if it caused “harm” to the athlete.
A similar bill has been introduced on the House side in House Bill 1006. ASBSD opposes both bills through resolution B7. Decision-Making Authority Regarding Transgender Legislation that was approved by members in November.
A third education related bill discussed by Gov. Noem was House Bill 1012, which dictates specific curriculum and instruction. The Governor said “children are being exposed to radical political ideologies” and added “we’re not going to let that happen here in South Dakota.”
The bill’s title is focused on protecting “students from critical race theory” while the text of the bill concentrates on not directing or compelling a student to affirm specific tenets related to “race, color, religion sex, ethnicity, or national origin” and prohibits similar courses and instruction.
Gov. Noem heralded the state’s schools as being ranked first in the nation for reducing learning loss among students during the pandemic. She also celebrated South Dakota’s “exceptional revenue growth” with revenue collections being $20.8 million higher in December than her revised budget had projected and for the fiscal year the state is $116 million higher in collections compared to adopted projections.
The current strength of the state was credited by Gov. Noem to the government not being intrusive.
“The state of South Dakota is stronger than it has been in our 133 years,” Gov. Noem said. “That did not happen because of government did. That happened because of what our government did not do.”
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