PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — It’s been a process for over two years, but new social studies standards have now been approved for South Dakota K-12 classrooms.
Monday was the last of four public hearings regarding the new standards concluding with a vote by the South Dakota Board of Education Standards at the end.
The board voted to approve the proposed social studies standards in a 5-2 vote. They are set to be implemented over two years and part of the classroom in 2025.
It was day full of testimony for and against the standards, but the difference this go-around includes hearing opinions from members of the Board of Education for the first time regarding the proposed social studies standards.
Board president Terry Nebelsick came out against the proposed standards and commented on how they were developed. He predicts the new standards will have “unintended consequences.”
“This whole government interference could lead more students and parents to hate social studies rather than trying to engage. I am personally totally offended by the testimony of legislators who showed disrespect for public school teachers, administrators and board members. We are not a bunch of union workers in a non-union state. Your comments are mean-spirited and totally unfounded by the work that we do,” Nebelsick said.
Nebelsick suggested bringing back the original 2021 standards and holding more discussions for those.
Steve Willard says this process is not what he signed up for and that it has become too “divisive.”
“The first proposed standards that had two of my Belle Fourche teachers on the standards, and then they were pulled. Those two teachers came to me and said, “What happened? We were on that committee. We put a lot of time into that committee. Why aren’t our voices going to be heard?” I didn’t have an answer,” he said.
Nebelsick and Willard were only two no votes.
Phyllis Heineman voted yes. She praised the passion on both sides and says the change is “exciting.”
“We’ve got great educators on both sides. We’ve got great experts on both sides, and so I’m hopeful that when the final outcome, and I’m going to be honest, I’ll be voting for it, that we do have these standards. That they take all this energy and channel it into making these standards work,” she said.
Rich Meyer also voted in favor and says he’s been appreciative of everyone who has provided public comment.
“I’m hoping these new standards are in a direction that we can all live with and work on and that there will be a coming together of everybody to make them really really work,” he said.
Steven Perkins brought up proficiency rates in South Dakota schools and says, “we’ve got to do better.”
“I am not saying that you teachers are wrong or anything else, but I’m just saying there is a different way to look at things and sometimes we get tunnel vision,” he said.
Among those speaking in opposition, Monday was Tea Legacy Elementary principal Samantha Walder. She attended all four education standards public hearings.
“I do have concerns that the specificity and the bulk of standards that are included here is going to undermine some of that local control that our local school boards are currently used to being able to have,” Walder said.
During that discussion, there were also questions about how the new standards would be implemented, to which Secretary of Education Joe Graves said it would be a 2-year implementation including professional development-type meetings with educators, as well as consultation on what books to buy.
You can see additional coverage from Monday’s meeting from KELOLAND’s Eric Mayer and Bob Mercer, too.