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House kills American Exceptionalism bill

Rep. Scott Odenbach, left, and Rep. Roger DeGroot debate HB 1070 on the House floor.
Rep. Scott Odenbach, left, and Rep. Roger DeGroot debate HB 1070 on the House floor.

A bill to establish a Center for American Exceptionalism at Black Hills State University was killed twice in the House on Wednesday, Feb. 22. Because it involved an appropriation, the bill needed two-thirds of the House to vote yes, and it failed in a first vote and again in a reconsideration.

House Bill 1070 was defended on the House floor by its prime sponsor, Rep. Scott Odenbach, who said South Dakota should write its own curriculum and textbooks for K-12 civics.

“The big woke textbook companies from other states have a near monopoly, are expensive, and are quickly being supplanted by new technology,” he said. “And they’re written by college professors at other out-of-state universities.”

Odenbach said he had been working for a few years on the concept of building U.S. exceptionalism into education.

“I’ve looked at similar institutes in other states for inspiration, of which there are more and more every year,” Odenbach said.

Rep. Sue Peterson said she voted against the bill in the first round of voting because it allowed too much oversight from Black Hills State. She read from a letter she received from David Randall of the National Association of Scholars, a conservative organization headquartered in New York City.

She said Randall generally approved of HB 1070 but found the university’s president and deans could nullify its intent.

“South Dakota policymakers should not waste taxpayer dollars on a center that would be captured by the higher education establishment,” she said.

Peterson said the state should fund the Center to be self-contained, with a board appointed by the governor and the legislature.

The bill faced opposition from Rep. Roger DeGroot, a retired educator who called the bill “clunky.”

He criticized the requirement that the Center’s governing board would report to the legislature.

“Where do they report that to? Reports it back here. Why not back to the Board of Regents that’s establishing this, so big government’s not involved in it again?” DeGroot said.

He noted that the Center did not appear to have support at legislative hearings from educational institutions.

“Who was there to support it and talk? Was the Board of Education there? Was the Board of Regents there? Was the president from Black Hills State there?” DeGroot asked.

The bill was narrowly defeated.

Rapid City freelancer Victoria L. Wicks has been producing news for SDPB since August 2007. She Retired from this position in March 2023.
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