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The effort to establish two schools based on Native American cultural fails

South Dakota State Senate
Jackelyn Severin

An effort to establish two schools based on Native American cultural curriculum has failed in the state legislature.

Senate Bill 139 would have provided funding for the creation of two Oceti Sakowin community-based schools in the state. Along with teaching state curriculum students would learn Lakota and cultural teachings of the state’s nine tribes.

This is the third time that Senator Troy Heinert, a democrat from Mission, has brought a bill to establish Oceti Sakowin community-based schools. Heinert says the state’s current education system is failing Native American students.

“According to the state’s own data sets, our kids perform at about a quarter of what we should be considered proficient. And that is nothing new. It has been that way for 60 years. That’s my community. That’s the people that I live with. And we want to change that. We believe this bill will help end that cycle."

Lobbyists representing school districts and school boards across the state opposed the bill. They say the measure doesn’t clearly outline how the community-based schools would be governed. Opponents also say the legislation isn’t needed because school districts have the authority to create magnet schools based on the Oceti Sakowin curriculum.

The house education committee ultimately sided with the opponents voting 8 to 4 to kill the bill.