Noem supports revamped Native American schools proposal

Published: Feb. 18, 2020 at 12:29 PM CST
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A proposal to start schools in South Dakota that focus on teaching Native American language and culture has gained a key ally — Gov. Kristi Noem.

Advisers from the Republican governor’s office helped present a revamped bill to a Senate committee on Tuesday that would allow Oceti Sakowin schools that teach Lakota, Dakota, and Nakota language and culture. The schools would attempt to address the low rates of high school graduation and college attendance in some Native American communities in the state.

The governor opposed the proposal when it was presented two weeks ago, but senators liked the idea and gave the schools’ proponents and the governor’s office time to rewrite the proposal. They came back with a compromise — the bill would still allow for the creation of the schools, but they would be administered through school districts and be subject to the same certifications and oversight as other schools. That helped win the governor’s support.

Education groups, including lobbyists representing school boards, will likely still oppose the proposal. The bill originally labeled the schools as “charter” schools but changed the term to “community-based” schools.

The bill’s language is still being worked out and the Senate committee decided to wait until Thursday to decide on whether to approve it.