news

A Team from School of Mines and Technology qualified as one of 20 US teams to attend the International Computer Programming Competition in Thailand. Joining us are coaches Toni Logar and Ed Corwin – and also Rachel Krohn – one of the students on the team and also the first woman from mines to qualify. We’ll learn about the international competition and what it takes for students to prepare.

Kealey Bultena / SDPB

A bill that mandates accommodations for transgender students to use bathrooms and locker rooms in public schools is on its way to the state Senate floor. An education committee Thursday voted to pass House Bill 1008. Supporters say the measure protects students’ privacy. Opponents say it’s discrimination.

Jenifer Jones

Debate on a possible tax hike to fund education is stalled in the State House until next week. Educators who support more money for teacher pay packed the gallery at the Statehouse. As Representatives started work on part of a new education plan for South Dakota, discussion stopped when a fraction of lawmakers invoked a special rule.

Kealey Bultena / SDPB

A bill to end the death penalty in South Dakota failed in the state legislature. State Senator Art Rusch, who spent many years as a prosecutor and circuit judge, brought Senate Bill 94 to the House State Affairs Committee Wednesday. 

Testimony on both sides was often emotional. Lynnette Johnson of Sioux Falls lost her husband on his 63rd birthday in 2011.  Ronald “RJ” Johnson was attacked and killed during an escape attempt by two men serving life prison terms.  Johnson’s widow is opposed to repealing executions in the state.

Jenifer Jones

Lawmakers in Pierre reject a measure that requires parents opt in to education related to human sexuality. House Bill 1168 mandates parents provide written permission before a student participates in any education related to sex ed, abstinence or human sexuality. That includes specific courses but also units in required classes such as biology.

State Representative Tom Holmes is a former classroom teacher.

Jenifer Jones

A bill that eliminates an activities policy on transgender students is halfway through the Statehouse. House Bill 1112 voids the transgender policy the South Dakota High School Activities Association has in place. Lawmakers in Pierre amended the measure during debate.

Several South Dakota lawmakers say they understand school leaders want a consistent, clear policy for transgender students, but legislators disagree about who should institute the guidelines and what they should include.

Jenifer Jones / SDPB

Lawmakers in Pierre support the first element of Governor Dennis Daugaard’s proposal to infuse more money into schools for teacher pay. House Bill 1182 is one of three bills that compose the K-12 education funding plan. The bill authorizes a sales and use tax increase of one half of one percent.  

Courtesy RST DCI Sicangu Youth Council

The Rosebud Sioux Tribe has begun an effort to repatriate remains of tribal members who died while attending the Carlisle Indian Industrial School in Carlisle, Pennsylvania. We spoke with the tribe’s Historic Preservation Officer about the history of Lakota students at the school and what’s being done to bring home their remains.

The Rosebud Sioux Tribe has been gathering information about how to repatriate the remains of at least 10 Lakota students who died at Carlisle in the 19th century.

In a quick turnaround, the South Dakota Supreme Court has rejected the appeal of Ronald Ray Fischer. He's serving time for driving drunk and killing two U.S. Fish and Wildlife employees. The court heard oral arguments on Jan. 13 and released its opinion Thursday, Feb. 4. Fischer argued that the trial court should have suppressed blood tests showing his alcohol content to be almost three and a half times the legal limit.

For more information on federal and state law and supreme court decisions, follow the links posted with the story below.

Jenifer Jones / SDPB

A measure that allows lawmakers to review the South Dakota High School Activities Association’s social policy is dead. Some legislators support House Bill 1111 as a means to regulate issues related to transgender students among other matters. The argument on the bill in committee centered on the whether the activities association qualifies as a state agency.

Jenifer Jones / SDPB

A new perspective on education funding is working its way through the State Capitol, but some say it’s an uphill battle. This year Governor Dennis Daugaard is proposing an overhaul of the way the state funds education. His plan includes a half-penny increase in the sales tax and a change in the way schools get funding. The plan requires two-thirds of the state’s lawmakers to approve a tax increase in an election year.

Photo courtesy of ACLU-SD

The House State Affairs committee has voted to approve a bill that ensures continued state funding and tax breaks for entities that discriminate against gay or transgender people. House Bill 1107 protects organizations or people who act on their religious belief that marriage is reserved for male and female partners and that biological gender is unchangeable.

Jenifer Jones

A state Senate panel is endorsing education plans that focus on supporting Native American students. One of those measures funds programs that focus on incorporating Indian culture and language into standard subjects. 


Photo courtesy of SD Attorney General

Prison inmates who committed murder while juveniles have a chance to escape their mandatory sentence of life without possibility of parole. The U.S. Supreme Court issued its decision this week that Miller v. Alabama is retroactive, and so inmates convicted before that 2012 decision can now ask for a reduced sentence. Justices say states can offer parole eligibility to the affected inmates and avoid a new trial or sentence hearing. In South Dakota, only one inmate, Paul Dean Jensen, is affected.

A bill outlining which students can use which bathrooms in South Dakota schools is past its first legislative hurdle. The House State Affairs committee Monday approved House Bill 1008. Supporters of the measure say it protects student privacy; opponents say the move harms students who are transgender.

Kealey Bultena / SDPB

State lawmakers are trying to figure out the best way to fund education in 151 different South Dakota school districts. And that might be especially difficult when it comes to small schools. Bills with the language of Governor Dennis Daugaard’s plan to increase teacher pay are not yet filed in Pierre. Right now lawmakers are working off of explanations from the governor’s State of the State speech and the Department of Education. Members of the legislature are determining what revamping the K-12 funding formula means for small schools and whether leaders are starting in the right place.

State lawmakers working on policies to increase teacher pay are weighing accountability and local control. The two concepts clash as legislators look at a plan to raise the sales tax for teacher salary increases – even among Republicans who control both chambers of South Dakota’s legislature.

A poll commissioned by Governor Dennis Daugaard indicates at least 71 percent of likely voters approve of his plan to raise the sales tax one half-cent to increase teacher salaries.

Black Hills State University’s most recent Geek Speak lecture series featured an open discussion about the objectification of women. The presentation, by university professors, touched on what’s called raunch culture.

Four Black Hills State University, or BHSU, faculty stood in front of a crowd of nearly 65 people. A screen behind them flipped through photos of advertisements, music videos and movie scenes featuring women wearing underwear and short dresses.

State representatives support a measure that takes South Dakota out of a regional coalition. State leaders entered the Midwestern Higher Education Compact in 2008. A push is now underway to end the contract with 11 other states.

South Dakota is part of the Midwestern Higher Education Compact. Proponents say the Board of Regents has gained from the membership. State lawmakers say enrollment has two primary advantages: it offers more buying power on technology purchases and savings on property insurance.

Kealey Bultena

Public school administrators are telling teachers a plan to increase the average teacher salary to more than $48,500 doesn’t mean pay raises across the board. Governor Dennis Daugaard wants to boost education funding by raising the sales tax by a half cent. 

South Dakota’s Blue Ribbon Task Force determined that teacher pay in South Dakota is behind surrounding states by thousands of dollars. Now lawmakers must decide on the right mechanism for funding K-12 education and how much money school districts should receive.

Kealey Bultena / SDPB

Leaders in Pierre are laying out the governor’s new plan for dispensing state tax dollars to schools. This week’s discussion includes details about proposed caps to school districts’ reserve funds. 

South Dakota school districts are allowed to keep reserve funds. They’re basically savings accounts for general fund dollars. Part of Governor Dennis Daugaard’s plan to alter the funding formula for K-12 schools includes limiting the amount of money schools can squirrel away.

PUC photo

CenturyLink customers will soon receive phone books on demand, rather than receiving them every year without asking, according to a declaratory ruling made Tuesday, Jan. 19, by the Public Utilities Commission.

Customers who request phone books can put in a standing order, rather than having to ask every year.

CenturyLink, parent company of Qwest, contracts with Dex for phone books. The publisher has been transitioning away from paper phone directories and moving toward digital lists online.

Higher education leaders are working to get students on track for college-level courses without adding to their years in school. Not all students are prepared for college or tech programs after high school. Now educators are offering them opportunities to catch up while taking normal class loads.

Representatives from the Board of Regents and South Dakota’s technical institutes are talking to lawmakers about retaining students – especially when their skills are shy of normal requirements. State colleges and tech schools now have versions of co-remediation.

SDPB

President Obama has announced new regulations and more stringent background checks for anyone who wants to purchase a firearm. 

Meanwhile, in South Dakota 2015 saw a spike in the number of concealed pistol permits, the permits allow a citizen who has completed a background check to legally hide and carry a handgun.  

While a state issued conceal carry permit requires a background check it doesn’t necessarily streamline the federal background checks needed to purchase a firearm.  Some state lawmakers hope that can change.
 

SD Department of Corrections

A high-risk inmate is leaving prison this week after 11 years. Leaders with the South Dakota Department of Corrections say the prisoner has a violent record and did not follow rules while serving time, but his sentence has expired.  

Michael Ontiveros leaves prison Wednesday after completing time for multiple burglaries in Hughes and Walworth counties. The 47-year-old man is a registered sex offender with a history of attempted sexual assault, kidnapping, escape, and grand theft.

Photo courtesy of the Public Utilities Commission

The South Dakota Public Utilities Commission has to decide if phone books are going the way of the hand-written letter. Phone book publisher Dex is transitioning from paper directories to online listings in a number of states. Two weeks ago the state PUC heard from representatives of Dex, Qwest, and CenturyLink, who want to transition away from printing phone books in South Dakota and publish directories online. The commission delayed making a decision until its hearing on Jan. 19.

Legislative Podcast: State of the Judiciary, Education, Ethics Reforms

Jan 13, 2016
Melissa Hamersma / SDPB

The January 13th, 2016  SDPB Legislative Podcast features stories on the State of the Judiciary, education, and ethics reforms efforts.

Governor Daugaard: State Must Learn From Gear-UP

Jan 13, 2016

Governor Dennis Daugaard says the state needs to examine the Gear Up scandal and learn how to avoid similar situations in the future.   

Shortly after the state terminated its relationship with administrating organization, the Mid-Central Education Cooperative, an employee at the program killed himself and his family.  

 Daugaard says the state needs to do a better job ensuring that outside agencies it does business with are adhering to ethical practices.

He made the statements on today’s Dakota Midday. 

In May 2013, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that law officers need to get a warrant to draw blood from DUI suspects unless exigent circumstances do not allow.

A year later, the South Dakota Supreme Court heard arguments that the state's blood draw process was unconstitutional.

In the gap between those two events, Ronald Ray Fischer was arrested in Charles Mix County for running a stop sign while drunk and killing two U.S. Fish and Wildlife employees in a parking lot.

On December 18, 2012, 16-year-old Braiden McCahren of Pierre was arrested for shooting and killing a friend and threatening another friend with a shotgun. He was charged with first-degree murder, but at trial was convicted of second-degree murder. His attorney argued before the South Dakota Supreme Court that McCahren didn't have the chance to defend against the charge of which he was convicted.

MORE OF THE STORY

The decision to allow the jury to consider second-degree murder came after both parties had rested their cases and just before parties made closing arguments.

Pages