State Resolution in Favor of Abolishing U.S. Department of Education Moves Forward

Mar 5, 2019

The Senate Education Committee ends the legislative session with a debate on the merit of certain resolutions and the federal Department of Education. A resolution calling for South Dakota’s congressional delegation to support dissolving the department moves to the senate floor without a recommendation. 

Senator Stace Nelson is the resolution’s prime sponsor. He tells the committee this is an issue Republicans have pursued on a national scale since the Department of Education was established in 1979.

“What we’ve seen in the state of South Dakota is that the Department of Education at the federal level oftentimes gets in the way of local control and what South Dakotans believe is in the best interests of our children. And that’s where that control should be is here locally in South Dakota,” he says. 

Nelson quotes a speech by President Ronald Reagan, in which he proposes dismantling the department while some of its activities continue in other areas of government.

When Senator Troy Heinert asks him to explain the correlation between the federal and state departments of education and local school boards, Nelson says it’s up to senators to know how the system works:

“Senator, it’s not my job to educate you on that. And frankly I don’t have the time right now to go into the whole entirety of it.”

During committee discussion, Heinert takes issue with that response. He argues the resolution is unnecessary, and resents the committee being used “as a punching bag.”

“The federal department of education does not dictate what curriculum schools use, how teachers teach, what the South Dakota state standards look like. [It] has nothing to do with that!” he says.

Other committee members say they must deal with issues that come before them. Motions to send the resolution to the 41st day and to give it a do-pass recommendation both result in ties.

The committee eventually sends the resolution to the senate floor without a recommendation on a four-to-two vote.

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