SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — Before the South Dakota Department of Education released its new draft of social standards, Jamie Smith already had concerns.  

The Democratic nominee for governor and former teacher himself told KELOLAND News the day after the draft of the new standards were released that he didn’t feel South Dakota teachers were being respected. 

“This wasn’t developed by educators here in the State of South Dakota. This is by people outside of South Dakota, putting an influence here in what we teach our kids in the state,” Smith said. “South Dakotans don’t like that.” 

Smith encouraged all South Dakota teachers to look at the drafted standards, provide feedback and attend one of the four public hearings hosted by the Board of Education Standards. The first one is set for 9 a.m. September 19 at the Dakota Event Center in Aberdeen. 

Three other meetings will be held over a required period of six months. The second meeting is scheduled to be held in Sioux Falls on November 21. 

In addition to public hearings, people can provide written comments to the Board of Education on the draft of the social studies standards in an online survey. 

“These standards raise the bar for the breadth and depth of civics and history education,” Republican Governor Kristi Noem said in a statement announcing the proposed standards. “They feature a true, honest, and balanced approach to American history that is not influenced by political agendas. And under these standards, our students will focus more on Native American history and culture than ever before.”

Noem is seeking re-election against Smith and Tracey Quint, the Libertarian Party candidate. Quint told KELOLAND News she didn’t want to comment on the proposed social studies standards until she had read them.   

Smith also said he had yet to read all of the 128-page standards draft, but said politics played a role in the process that was delayed in 2021 from concerns about removing Native American history and culture.  

“The governor said that there wasn’t partisanship involved and it was only partisanship,” Smith said. “That’s exactly what this was. Politicians shouldn’t be telling the teachers how to do their jobs. Teachers need to teach.” 

The release of the proposed standards noted Noem “became the first candidate or public official in the country to sign the “1776 Pledge to Save our Schools.” At the time, she and Dr. Ben Carson co-wrote an article for Fox News outlining the Pledge and why it is important.” 

Along with Smith, other education groups have voiced concerns about the proposed standards. 

The South Dakota Education Association released a statement saying they are concerned about the amount of memorization for early learners and a lack of challenge for older students’ critical thinking skills.

Tanya Rasmussen, the Director of Education Services at Harrisburg Schools, said she has gone over the entire proposal. She told KELOLAND News she was concerned about three parts: 1. The curriculum for K-5 grades; 2. Textbooks and resources to meet the new standards; 3. The lack of need for critical thinking skills. 

“I want our learners to be great citizens, to be able to analyze information and to be able to make their own decisions,” Rasmussen said. “We want them to think about their world.” 

Rasmussen said she reached out to people who worked on the commission to develop the standards to learn more. 

Harrisburg Superintendent Tim Graf told KELOLAND News he was concerned only two current teachers served on the commission that drafted the standards.

“Do parents think this is a good thing?” Graf asked. “Where is this going? Where’d this come from? Will there be textbooks? How much will this cost schools to adopt social studies standards? Those are a few of the questions I’d have.”  

When the commission was announced with 15 members, William Morrisey was not announced as the consultant who was paid $200,000 to facilitate the standards. 

“Retired Hillsdale College Professor Will Morrisey did an excellent job guiding the conversation and ensuring that all perspectives were represented,” Department of Education Secretary Tiffany Sanderson said.