Hour of Reflection
The third week of session started a day early for me as I headed to the Capitol on Sunday to join Governor Noem, Congressman Johnson, and 400 other South Dakotans to reflect on the 46th anniversary of Roe v Wade and 46 years of abortion on demand. Forty-six years in which 60 million lives have been lost, including tens of thousands of South Dakotans. My personal prayer is that I live long enough to see the day when our culture once again respects all human life, not just the planned and the perfect.
Governor’s Budget Address
On Wednesday, legislators met in a joint session to hear Governor Noem’s budget proposal. She called for no new taxes, continued fiscal discipline, and continued prioritization of our state’s AAA financial rating.
In terms of funding, her priorities include $11.1 million state aid to education, $5 million to help shore up failing nursing homes, $4.4 million to fight the meth epidemic, $4.6 million for state radio infrastructure improvements, $5 million in development funds to expand rural broadband, $1.75 million to protect natural resources, $1.7 million to tech schools, and others.
The balance of the week was all about bills.
We’ve seen two major themes for bills in the Education Committee, the first relating to homeschoolers, and the second relating to improving the civics literacy of students.
I was fascinated to learn there are five thousand homeschool students in South Dakota. If you put them all together, they would constitute the third largest school district in the state behind Sioux Falls and Rapid City.
Tomorrow in committee (Monday), we’ll hear a bill to eliminate mandatory government testing of homeschoolers. The law currently requires the government to test homeschoolers several times during their K-12 career. The thought is that since homeschoolers function outside of the government, the government should not place requirements on homeschoolers, including testing.
The other homeschool bill we hear tomorrow allows homeschool children with special needs to be treated like public or private school children, but only for purpose of receiving special services like speech or physical therapy. This will likely be an emotional bill. On the one hand you have children with legitimate, special needs. On the other hand, you have parents who opt to teach them outside of the public-school system. And there also needs to be consideration for the shortage of special ed teachers, the logistics of providing the services and the cost.
The other theme we’ve seen in the education committee is improving civics literacy. Tomorrow we’ll hear Governor Noem’s bill to require all South Dakota students take a civics literacy test to graduate high school. Some 16 or 17 states currently have a similar requirement. Her bill would allow the test to be taken beginning in the ninth grade. Students could take it as many times as they want. The test would be a 50 question, multiple choice test. The questions would be taken from the US Citizenship exam. Students with special needs that are unable to take the test would be exempt.
The pushback I’ve heard is the test is too hard for high school students. I don’t agree. When my dad immigrated to America after surviving the Holocaust, he didn’t speak a word of English. Yet he went to school to learn English, learn a trade, and passed the test to become a US citizen. If a traumatized teenager from Eastern Europe can pass the test, so too can our children.
That’s it for now. Please feel free to contact me at any time via email at email@example.com. And if you make it to the Capitol, please look me up.
Life is good. Have a great week. – Fred