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State Affairs Republicans Defeat Pre-K Council Bill

Jenifer Jones

House Republicans are rejecting a bill that establishes an early childhood development council.

Proponents say it would help the state pool resources to help more South Dakota children get into pre-k education.

The vote rejecting a bill to set up a pre-k education council was along party line votes, with the committee’s two Democrats voting in favor of the bill.

Proponents say the council could look at the state of pre-k education in the state. The group could also apply for federal grants for pre-k education. They say the council would cost the state about 14 thousand dollars and that pre-k education has a high return on investment.

Republican Speaker of the House Steve Haugaard voted against the council. He says he’s heard the presentation making the case for pre-k education. He says the presenters were advisors to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

 “What it proports is that this is going to be a ‘tremedous benefit to the state,’” Haugaard says. “What it really is is a transformational approach to instilling a—more of a socialist agenda into the system.”

Haugaard says the goal of education in the state is to foster a moral society whose people understand written language enough to vote intelligently. He says it’s not to instill a performance approach to creating good workers for the state.
State officials say South Dakota has a workforce issue, and pre-k supporters point to studies by the Minneapolis Federal Reserve that show decreases in crime and welfare payments to those who had pre-k education.

Democratic State Representative Kelly Sullivan says the council would not mandate pre-k education for the state’s children.

“This is about establishing an advisory council to collect data, not duplicate work being done so we can basically have the best outcome that we can for a very small amount of money,” Sullivan says.

Sullivan says her and fellow Democrat Erin Healy will continue to work on early childhood education and bring legislation again next year.