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School districts preparing priorities for legislative session

Aaron C Packard

The Sioux Falls School District has its hands full with thousands of students, but they’re still keeping up with what’s happening in Pierre. With six weeks until legislative session, administrators have their eyes on a few key items.

Inflation, workforce, and feeding kids are all items at the front of the Sioux Falls school board members’ minds.

Laying out their priorities for the looming session at their most recent meeting, superintendent Jane Stavem said some challenges facing South Dakota schools are universal.

“What is it going to take to compete both educationally with other school districts as well as in the wider workforce – particularly here in a large urban area? We can also say the same things for out state," Stavem said. "They’re trying just as hard to get people to locate to smaller communities to educate children. Here in Sioux Falls, we’re in the top five and we believe we’re the third largest employer in Sioux Falls. We’re competing against the world of work.”

Stavem said major changes are needed to keep the state competitive.

“All of our children in South Dakota are important, so we don’t want the increases we see to be outliers," Stavem said. "We want them to be the norm if we want to keep pace.”

One of those changes could come to student nutrition. After the federal government covered all school lunches through COVID, Stavem said they tracked a change in public perception.

“We’ve tried to navigate between those different variables," Stavem said. "We have generous donors who help our families, at the same time we advocated for there to maybe be some kind of continuation of that from the federal government. With the reauthorization of the Farm Bill, we thought maybe that would come with it, but it hasn’t. So, we know there’s been some talk legislatively about if the state should assume that role.”

The governor will deliver her budget address Dec. 5, and the legislative session officially begins in early January.

C.J. Keene is a Rapid City-based journalist covering the legal system, education, and culture