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Republican Lawmakers Signal Intent To Bar Certain Federal Education Curriculum



Some?South Dakota?legislators?are?engaged in efforts to review and restrict?some of the classroom curriculum taught?at state universities and K through 12 schools.?? 

Others say educators should set the?standards?and goals?for the classroom -?not politicians.? 

Some Republican leaders want to?get involved with what students learn in civics and history classes. They are?delaying?any?application for federal grants that deal with?those academic areas.?The same goes for developing?civics?and history?curriculum?in?K through twelve schools.? 

That?gives?lawmakers a chance to review and?potentially restrict?classroom content?during?next year’s?legislative session.?? 

Republican Spencer?Gosch?is the Speaker of the House. He?wants the legislature to have a good grasp of what’s being taught in the state’s?schools.?? 

“My concerns are that we’ve got a?federally mandated program?that’s being rushed in when the legislature is away,” Gosch says. “My concerns are that we get an opportunity to properly vet what’s being pushed down into our schools.”? 

When asked?about the?mandated programs?that?are being?pushed into schools,?Gosch?said grant opportunities come with strings. He wants lawmakers to review them.??? 

Legislative leaders are?picking?up on a national effort to politicize the teaching of history and the?role race has?had?in shaping?U.S. policy and politics.?? 

State lawmakers have outlined?their concerns?in a letter put before the Joint Committee on Appropriations. The letter?will be used as a basis for the fiscal oversite of state agencies and?their?continued funding.? 

“I think it’s our job as elected officials—people that are elected by the taxpayers—to do their due diligence in evaluating what’s going on with the tax payers money and how it’s being spent,”?Gosch?says.? 

The letter points to?a?proposed?rule for grant opportunities?from?the?federal?Department of Education.?The department?recommends among other things that classroom?teaching?should reflect the nation’s?racial, ethnic, cultural?and linguistic?diversity.?? 

The Biden Administration says those concepts are reflected in the Smithsonian’s National?Museum?of African American History and the?1619 Project.?That project, created by the New York Times, centers?around?the consequences of slavery in U.S. History.? 

Governor Kristi?Noem?says?the project misleads students into believing the country is evil.??? 

“We do not have hatred and racism in our DNA,”?Noem?says. “We reject that?fulheardedly. It is a lie.”? 

Noem?says she wants to preserve honest and patriotic?education?that fosters a?love of the country and a realistic picture of its virtues and challenges.? 

Others say educational standards should be set by educational professionals, not politicians.? 

“America has done some great?great?things,”?Heinert?says. “But,?a history that is not known is bound to repeat itself.”? 

That’s Democratic State?Senator?Troy?Heinert. He’s Sicangu Lakota and sits on the state Senate education committee.?? 

He’s sponsored bills in the legislature to establish schools steeped in?Oceti?Sakowin culture.?Heinert?says it’s important to teach?about?policies that have and continue to keep?Native?American?children from reaching their full potential.?Heinert?says?it’s hard to move forward?for society to move forward?if history isn’t taught accurately.?? 

“And it doesn’t have to be adversarial. But you cannot do this if you don’t know the accurate truth,”?Heinert?says.?? 

Heinert?says the recent discovery of children’s bodies at Indian Boarding schools is a prime example.? 

“You need to look no further than?by?what happened in Rosebud?in bringing those children home from Carlisle, Pennsylvania. We don’t have to all the way to Pennsylvania to find the native kids who never made it home. We can do that right here in South Dakota.”? 

The South Dakota teacher’s union says?classroom?curriculum should be determined by education professionals.? 

Sandra Waltman is with the South Dakota Education Association.?? 

She says?teachers?want?an honest education where all of history is taught—the good and bad—and have thoughtful conversations about them.? 

“If we look to how South Dakota does it, our legislators will see that we don’t have an issue here,” Waltman says. “Because our standards are determined by professional educators. There’s public input. Out local school boards are working with their educators to come up with the curriculum that is appropriate for our students.”? 

A group of about 50 people are participating in a?review of South Dakota’s social studies standards. They spent?8 days in June examining standards for K through 12 curriculum and?will release their report on August 6. Statewide public comment will begin on September 20 in Aberdeen.? 

Lee Strubinger is SDPB’s Rapid City-based news and political reporter. A former reporter for Fort Lupton Press (CO) and Colorado Public Radio, Lee holds a master’s in public affairs reporting from the University of Illinois-Springfield.