House wants count of all South Dakota children with hearing losses

Capitol News Bureau

Patrick Callahan, SDBA 2020.

PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — The state Senate is the next stop for a proposal to make the South Dakota Department of Education count all children who have hearing losses.

House members voted 47-17 Thursday to approve the current version of HB 1228.

The department currently counts children from birth to age 5. The bill from Representative Erin Healy would cover all children through age 18, or through 21 if they were still in high school.

Not all deaf and hard of hearing kids are being counted now, because their primary disabilities are listed as something else, the Sioux Falls Democrat said.

The change would allow state government to account for all students with hearing difficulties and identify gaps, according to Healy.

She said kids who have partial hearing losses are sometimes “falling through the cracks” because they don’t have access to deaf services.

There isn’t an abundance of interpreters and they tend to be more expensive than many school officials have been willing to pay, according to Healy.

“Data drives implementation and quality education,” she said.

State officials opposed the change. About 100 students who are deaf or hard of hearing receive special education services.

Parents and supporters believe there are about 600 who have hearing losses.

Representative Rebecca Reimer, a Chamberlain Republican, argued against the bill. She said there would be “a large new testing mandate” if it became law.

Representative Herman Otten, a Lennox Republican, said two of his relatives are deaf and they believe children are being left out. “This isn’t huge but I ask that you support this,” Otten said.

Representative Manny Steele, a Sioux Falls Republican, agreed the department is missing “hundreds” of kids but, he said, the legislation doesn’t set up a system to address it.

Senator Reynold Nesiba, a Sioux Falls Democrat, is the bill’s lead sponsor in the Senate.

Nesiba is prime sponsor of a related bill, SB 117, that fell six votes short of Senate passage Wednesday. It would require the department to provide school districts with a program and policy for deaf and hard of hearing students.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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