Chair delays discussion by S.D. legislative panel of letter to bar federal history-grant applications

Capitol News Bureau
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PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — Its chairwoman decided Wednesday the Legislature’s Appropriations Committee would wait until next month to talk about a proposed letter of intent telling South Dakota’s public universities and technical colleges to hold off on applying for any federal grants on teaching history.

Senator Jean Hunhoff said it now appears that U.S. President Joe Biden’s administration recently shifted its position on a federal grants program for history and civics that originally stirred controversy because it seemed to many to be race-based.

The Washington Post reported July 19 that the U.S. Department of Education “published a notice Monday in the Federal Register requesting applications for grants that dropped references to published anti-racism works that had been mentioned in proposed rules released in April for the American History and Civics Education grant program, and that had drawn the ire of conservatives.”

On July 20, South Dakota U.S. Senator John Thune, the chamber’s No. 2 Republican, tweeted, “School is a place for our children to learn, not to be indoctrinated with a certain set of beliefs under the guise of civics education. I’m happy @USEDgov abandoned plans to have schools teach a specific ‘woke’ agenda.”.

The letter of intent to South Dakota’s public universities and technical colleges was on the Appropriations agenda Wednesday. But Hunhoff said delaying the discussion would provide time for committee members to get more understanding of the Biden administration’s changing position.

“I’d like to have that information before us,” she said. The state Board of Regents and the state Board of Technical Education also can adjust their potential responses, she added. The regents’ executive director, Brian Maher, and legal counsel Nathan Lukkes were in the audience.

The Republican-dominated appropriations panel approved a similar letter to the state Department of Education in May. Days later, Republican Governor Kristi Noem, a strong critic of the Democrat president, issued a column that took a similar line.

In a new fundraising message Wednesday Noem, who doesn’t yet have an announced opponent to her 2022 re-election, wrote, “I’m fighting anti-American indoctrination in the classroom to ensure that we are raising well-rounded patriots, not future Leftist radicals.”

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