Governor Noem Gives Details On Her Plans To Transfer Indian-Ed And Value-Added Ag Offices

Capitol News Bureau
KELO Gov. Noem

Governor Kristi Noem has provided more information about her executive order that moves the Office of Indian Education and the Value Added Finance Authority to different agencies in her new administration.

The governor told South Dakota lawmakers that Indian education would be placed in the state Department of Tribal Relations while ag-project financing is going to the Governor’s Office of Economic Development.

They had been in the state Department of Education and the state Department of Agriculture. 

Noem recently announced the selections of David Flute, a past chairman of the Sisseton-Wahpeton Oyate government, as secretary of tribal relations and Ben Jones, a dean at Dakota State University, as her interim secretary of education.

Noem said at her weekly legislative news conference Thursday she wants more emphasis on Indian education and expects Flute and Jones to work together.

 “That’s really important to me because I need Indian education to be a focus, and I believe Tribal Affairs will keep it in the forefront. There’s several areas within Indian education with our tribes that I feel is lacking today.” Noem said.

Native American students in South Dakota have lagged behind the general population of K-12 students in performance on standardized assessments and high-school graduation rates.

“That extra attention that it will get, in coordination between the Department of Education and Tribal Affairs, is going to be very helpful to make sure that we are aggressively going after more opportunities for our Native American children in those schools and school districts that we have on our tribes,” Noem said.

The governor has chosen Kim Vanneman as secretary of agriculture. Noem and Vanneman come from agriculture backgrounds and served in the state House of Representatives together a decade ago. Another former state lawmaker, Steve Westra of Sioux Falls, is Noem’s commissioner of economic development.

Noem said Thursday that shifting ag-development personnel to the Governor’s Office of Economic Development would give “ag experts a foothold” within GOED and raise attention on value-added agriculture projects and expansion of current operations.

“So the goal of that is to build in efficiencies for state government, but also to elevate agriculture and the opportunities that we have with our number-one industry in GOED, so it is focused on, and is at the forefront,” Noem said.

“But make no mistake. The Department of Ag will still be heavily involved. We have set up communication structures, authority structures, to where the secretary of agriculture will still be very involved in any ag development enterprises that go forward,” Noem continued.

KELOLAND asked Noem’s press secretary Kristin Wileman and the four Cabinet members for further details. Here are the questions and their answers.

1. Regarding the move of Indian education, what are the pluses and minuses of this change?

Wileman: The move allows for a more streamlined approach to addressing issues that impact the education of Native American children in South Dakota. Historically, the Office of Indian Education in the Department of Education has been a one or two-person unit. By placing the office in the Department of Tribal Relations – state government’s primary point of contact with the nine tribes – we believe there can be a more concerted effort to coordinate and communicate our help to Native youth on programs and opportunities for them to be successful.  

The Department of Education will continue its efforts to promote best practices when it comes to the education of Native youth in South Dakota. We envision that the two agencies will continue to work closely together on issues impacting Native youth, but leadership will originate from Tribal Relations with support from the Department of Education. 

2. How many FTEs were in the office? Will this change?

Wileman: There were two FTEs. One FTE will go over to Department of Tribal Relations. The other FTE was an administrative support/secretarial position. This position also provides support to the Office of the Secretary in DOE and will stay with DOE. 

3. Will the direction of the office change?

Wileman: Even with new leadership at the governor and secretary level, the office’s mission will remain to provide the best possible educational opportunities and support for our state’s Native American children.

4. Do tribal governments support the move

Secretary Flute: Tribes want to make sure their kids are getting a good education and meeting standards that make them successful. If that means oversight re-organization to help foster and assist in native children’s success, I believe the tribes will be open to the change and look forward to seeing enhancements of tribal education for their kids.

5. Will the annual Indian education summit continue? Will the timing and/or format change?

Wileman: We do not anticipate changes to this signature event. 

6. Will there be any changes in the state Indian education advisory panel?

Wileman: The Indian Education Advisory Council will fall under the Department of Tribal Relations once the order is effective, and the related duties of the Secretary of Education will transfer to the Secretary of Tribal Relations. 

7. Will there be goals for measuring success and if so, what might they be?

Wileman: The governor first and foremost wants to set up systems where children succeed. She is looking forward to recommendations on appropriate metrics from the new Secretary of Tribal Relations and the Indian Education Advisory Council.

8. If there is anything significant that I haven’t asked about, feel free to add it. 

Wileman: Dr. Jones has experience with these issues from his role as dean at DSU where he managed a grant to recruit and retain students from South Dakota’s Native community.  He knows their culture needs to be at the heart of Indian education and looks forward to incorporating Dakota/Lakota values into the academic environment.

9. Regarding the move the Value-Added Finance Authority, how many FTEs are affected?

Wileman: The function is moving. Number of FTE will announced next week with the budget. (Governor Noem plans to deliver her budget recommendations to the Legislature on Wednesday.)

10. Will they change location?

Wileman: Yes, they will be moving to the GOED office.

11. Will there be any significant change in emphasis?

Wileman: They will continue focus in the same area but will have more tools at GOED. This move will consolidate resources and brainpower, supply more tools for development, eliminate red tape, and create a better approach to developing our largest industry and create a lasting ag infrastructure.

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