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Lawmakers Endorse Indian Education Measures

Jenifer Jones

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.

Senate Bill 81 provides scholarship funds for a limited number of paraprofessionals to earn their teaching certificates. The money is available to certain people who already work in schools where Native American kids make up at least half of the enrollment. The bill is one recommendation from the Native American Student Achievement Advisory Council.

"I served on this group," State Representative Shawn Bordeaux says. "We had a lot of good discussions in there on education and what might work in some of these communities and what doesn’t work at all."

Senate Bill 82 recognizes that difference. This bill creates up to three Native American Achievement Schools. These schools are part of South Dakota’s public school system and must incorporate Native culture and language into established academic standards.

State Representative Jacqueline Sly says the program allows schools to help students learn without putting kids in desks facing the front of a classroom.

"Ability grouping rather than age-based, competency-based: you accomplish certain things before you move onto the next," Sly says. "It might be project-based, where you build your whole school year around a project that you’re going to do, or a nine-weeks. Or another name that’s used is customized learning."

Senate Bills 81 and 82 have one-time money for funding. Lawmakers in the state House of Representatives voted overwhelmingly to support both measures targeting education for Native American students.

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