SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) – One week ago, dozens of teachers, parents, educators and government officials held the first of at least four public Board of Education meetings regarding proposed social studies standards.
Since 2012, state law requires the Board of Education to conduct at least four public hearings over a period of one year before any new standards could be adopted in South Dakota. That law was House Bill 1128, which was sponsored in 2012 by then-Rep. Jim Bolin (R-Canton) and passed the House 66-4 and the Senate 32-0 before being signed into law by then-Governor Dennis Daugaard.
Bolin is currently serving as a state Senator and seeking re-election for his Senate seat in a redrawn District 16. He recalled working with former Department of Education Secretary Melody Schopp on the bill to allow more public input into education standards. It came as a response to Common Core standards that were approved for English and math in 2010.
“This puts a one-year process in place on the possible adaptation of any new standards,” Bolin said on the House floor in 2012.
More than 10 years after the bill was signed into law, Bolin is happy the law is helping create public debate regarding the proposed social studies standards.
“No one can say now there isn’t an opportunity for public input into this process,” Bolin told KELOLAND News on Monday. “Now, it’s a more open process and I think it’s a better process as a result of that.”
That open government process was on full display at the Dakota Events Center in Aberdeen last week. Board of Education members heard 23 people testify in favor of the proposed standards for 90 minutes and 27 people testify against the proposed standards for 90 minutes.
Shannon Malone, director of the division of learning and instruction with the South Dakota Department of Education, said 707 public comments came in via the internet or standard mail; these included 25 neutral comments, 67 proponents and 615 opponents.
Bolin did not weigh in on the specifics of the proposed social studies standards but added he was a teacher for more than 30 years. He said he plans to attend the Board of Education’s next public meeting set for Monday, Nov. 21 in Sioux Falls.
“People are concerned about what goes on in the classroom,” Bolin said. “I think this is a healthy process where people can express their views on these topics. No one can feel they are being shut out of the process.”
Bolin gave credit to Schopp to working with lawmakers to find a solution that would work. The original bill would have called for two years of public input but a compromise brought it down to one year. Schopp ended up testifying in favor of the bill in her position of DOE Secretary.
“South Dakota is one of the few states that would allow this type of a very open process for the adoption of the standards,” Bolin said.
Registration for public comment for the next meeting in Sioux Falls won’t open until Nov. 4.