SD Department of Education

Kealey Bultena / SDPB

A measure that automatically allows South Dakota’s home schooled students to participate in public extracurricular activities is dead. A legislative committee considered House Bill 1123 for nearly two hours Monday before decided not to support it.

Kealey Bultena / SDPB

A Mitchell teacher has won a prestigious national award that comes with $25,000. An assembly this week surprised the fourth grade educator with the honor.  

Local and state leaders gather at Longfellow Elementary in Mitchell to recognize a teacher. Students and staff attend the assembly under false pretenses before they find out the real reason they gather. Greg Gallagher with the Milken Family Foundation announces that one of the educators in the gym is set to receive a celebrated award.

Courtesy Melody Schopp

South Dakota’s Secretary of Education is reflecting on a recent trip to Africa. Melody Schopp is set to be the next president of the Council of Chief State School Officers, and she went to Malawi last week through the US Department of State.

Schopp says students in Malawi learn in huge classes or groups outside, and they don’t have bright, colorful classrooms like she sees in South Dakota. She says she saw this while touring African schools.

Kealey Bultena / SDPB

South Dakota School Districts are deciding how to dole out more money for teacher pay. State lawmakers passed a tax increase to raise educator salaries. Now school leaders must choose how to distribute the money in their districts. In Sioux Falls, the board has unanimously approved a 6.8 percent increase for teachers.

Jenifer Jones / SDPB

Lawmakers in Pierre support two programs aimed at Native American education. One measure seeks to help people who want to finish college courses so they can teach in Native American schools. The other sets up a pilot program to combine innovative cultural teachings with standard subjects.

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. 


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.

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.

Kealey Bultena / SDPB

Investigators are trying to piece together factors that left a family of six dead in a murder-suicide. Fire engulfed a home near Platte one week ago, and responders found six bodies inside. Preliminary autopsy results show Nicole Westerhuis and four children died of shotgun wounds. Authorities suspect husband and father Scott Westerhuis killed them before shooting himself.

Scott Westerhuis was business manager for an organization called Mid Central Education Cooperative. Recent audits reveal financial issues with grant money that funnels to the group.

South Dakota schools have a waiver from No Child Left Behind but it lasts for just one year, and federal officials have put the state on high risk status.

South Dakota’s first waiver from NCLB lasted for three years. The latest exemption applies for only one year – and it’s happening because of teacher evaluations.