New S.D. education secretary lays out governor’s K-12 civics plan to state board

Capitol News Bureau
KELO Education Funding

PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — Governor Kristi Noem wants South Dakota’s K-12 students to get a better grasp of South Dakota’s history, her new secretary of education said Tuesday.

Tiffany Sanderson gave a rough outline of the governor’s plan to the South Dakota Board of Education Standards.

“Textbook publishers aren’t going to be looking to develop South Dakota-specific resources,” Sanderson said.

“That’s an opportunity that we have, in partnership with experts throughout the state, whether that’s the (State) Historical Society, South Dakota Public Broadcasting, our wide network of museums, tribal government, and educators, historians, throughout the state, in partnership with our educators, in the traditional practice of developing standards together, and getting what it is that we value and would like to have taught in our classrooms, all the way through instructional materials for the classroom, including primary documents, historical photos, videos, interviews with experts,” she explained.

She continued, “It would really help our students to understand this rich history we have, this rich story, here in South Dakota.”

The governor in her January 12 State of the State speech said she wants students to get a stronger understanding of civic responsibility and asked the Legislature to let her administration spend $900,000 toward that goal.

Noem’s remarks came days after a mob attacked the U.S. Capitol January 6. Many took her statements as criticism of South Dakota teachers. Sanderson, who succeeded Ben Jones 41 days ago as education secretary, portrayed the situation differently Tuesday.

She said there isn’t a go-to resource on South Dakota history that teachers can tap. “So this is an opportunity to look at how do we set those teachers up for success in the classroom.”

Sanderson said there will be funds for teacher training and for students to get experience participating, whether the setting is city commission, county commission, school board or Legislature, or in mock debates, mock trials and mock legislatures, according to Sanderson.

“Really at an early age to get involved in government, know what it means to be an engaged citizen, so as they take on adulthood, they’re prepared to do so,” she said.

The state board’s president, Jacqueline Sly of Rapid City, is a retired teacher and a Republican former legislator. Sly described the $900,000 as “a lot of money” and asked how it would be spent, because each local school district in South Dakota chooses the local curriculum.

Sanderson said curriculum about South Dakota government, geography and history don’t exist.

“If anybody’s going to develop them, South Dakota needs to develop them on their own,” Sanderson said. Some of the funds would go toward creating that curriculum, Sanderson added. She said the governor’s group is still working on the framework.

“So,” Sly asked, “it’s really focused on the South Dakota geography, history, rather than the broader?”

“In terms of funding use, we’re developing resources, yes,” Sanderson replied. “But I think the conversation going on at the Legislature will be very broad in scope around all of civics.”

Sly asked whether legislators would be determining the money while people involved in education would be deciding content.

“That’s a good summation,” Sanderson answered. She noted the state board’s seven-year schedule for revising social-studies standards begins this spring. “So timing for this conversation is fortuitous. It all comes together at a good time.”

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