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Politics

State Lawmakers Reject $500 Per Tribal, BIE School Student Aid Proposal

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SDPB

Twice, South Dakota Republicans rejected a proposal to include tribal schools in a $500 dollar per student COVID relief package.

In a resolution passed during a special session on Monday, lawmakers approved using some of it’s CARES Act money for public and private school students.

Governor Kristi Noem says the state will direct $75 million dollars in aid for public and private schools as part of how the state will spend the $1.25 billion dollars in federal COVID relief money. That’s in addition to what the federal government has already given public and private schools.

Noem announced that program in early September.

State Democrats want tribal schools included. It would cost the state $3.4 million from its CARES Act allotment.

State Senator Troy Heinert is a Democrat from Mission. He says in 2019, there were about 6,700 students enrolled in tribal and Bureau of Indian Education schools.

He says the state should be fair and extend COVID relief dollars to tribal schools as well.

“What’s different is public and private both got $500 out of the state,” Heinert says. “BIE and Tribal didn’t. Now, if these kids are South Daktoa kids, we should include them—straight up. If you don’t think so, go ahead and vote no.”

It failed. Both in the Senate and when House Democrats brought the same amendment when the resolution reached that chamber.

John Wiik is a Republican Senator from Big Stone City. He says the BIE have a pool of money directly given to them by the CARES Act.

“I believe we should direct our federal delegation to make sure that money goes down—per the federal guidance—on a $500 per student basis.”

Tribes can also appropriate portions of their CARES Act money directly to tribal schools.

Lee Strubinger is the politics and public policy reporter for SDPB.