GOP legislators call for time-out on federal aid for South Dakota history and civics curriculum

Capitol News Bureau
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PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — A panel of South Dakota lawmakers says the state Department of Education shouldn’t seek federal aid for history or civics until further notice.

The Legislature’s Appropriations Committee voted 16-1 Tuesday to send a letter of intent to state Education Secretary Tiffany Sanderson,

The letter calls on the department to wait until after the 2022 legislative session.

Republican legislators want time to review Democrat proposals pending in Congress.

Senator Ryan Maher brought the letter. Maher said he wants to “put the brakes on” so the Legislature’s policy committees can see what’s “in the fine print” of the federal legislation.

Maher also sponsored SB 55 in the 2020 session that has a task force led by the state Board of Regents and some appropriators reviewing administration of the state’s public universities. The task force’s report is due in November.

At this point, the committee’s Tuesday letter applies only to K-12 education. Senator Brock Greenfield said the scope could expand. “We may clone a draft of this as it relates to higher education as well,” Greenfield said.

Republican Governor Kristi Noem appointed Sanderson as secretary in December to replace Ben Jones. The Legislature’s Republican super-majorities in roundabout fashion approved Noem’s request for $900,000 to assemble a South Dakota curriculum for civics and history.

Noem recently signed ‘The 1776 Pledge to Save Our Schools’ similar to one from a group that backed President Donald Trump’s re-election. Noem campaigned for Trump in a variety of states last year.

Representative Tina Mulally said during the discussion Tuesday she agreed with Maher’s letter and wants to make sure that whatever Sanderson’s department does “adheres to her (Noem’s) vision as well.”

Republicans outnumber Democrats 16-2 on the appropriations panel. Representative Linda Duba spoke against the letter, pointing out that Congress hasn’t acted. “I object to this,” Duba said. “I’m sorry, that’s where I stand on this, and I’ll be quiet now.” 

Senator John Wiik said the action was within the scope of appropriations. He said the letter asks that the department doesn’t take any federal dollars until the Legislature’s policy committees have a chance to decide if it’s the right thing for South Dakota.

“We are focusing on the dollars,” Wiik said.

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