Supporters Say Amendment R Good For Tech Schools

Aug 23, 2016

Credit Lake Area Technical Institute

Attorney General Marty Jackley’s ballot explanation says under Amendment R, “postsecondary technical institutes will be governed separately in a manner to be determined by the Legislature.”

Currently technical institutes are overseen by the State Board of Education and local school boards.
Amendment R adds technical schools to the list of constitutionally recognized post-secondary educational institutions in South Dakota.

The measure goes on to clarify that the Regents do not have authority over the technical institutes, and that governance of the technical institutes is determined by the legislature at a later date.

Greg Von Wald is a spokesperson for Amendment R.

“[Tech schools] are basically owned by the K-12 system in [their] four communities,” Von Wald says. “At the same time, at the state level, they’re represented by the Board of Education, which, it’s primary function, of course, is the K-12 system. The Amendment itself doesn’t do anything. It says the legislature can do things after that. And what we’re hoping the legislature will do is simply give us a voice at the state level that’s separate from K-12.”

When technical and community colleges were first created, the Federal government asked local school boards and the State Board of Education to help them get established. For example, Western Dakota Tech is managed by the Rapid City Area School Board of Education.

Western Dakota Tech President Ann Bolman says K-12 schools and technical institutes increasingly have different objectives.

Bolman says Amendment R gives technical institutes the legitimate spot in higher education they deserve…

“Amendment R is going to be a huge development for technical colleges in South Dakota, just in the history of two year colleges," Bolman says. "South Dakota currently does not have any official recognition in the state’s constitution for the role of technical colleges in higher education in the state.”

Bolman says Amendment R helps streamline coordinating efforts between technical institutes in South Dakota.

Governor Dennis Daugaard supports the amendment. Speaking at a press conference in favor of Amendment R, Daugaard says it would create a system of tech institutes for the 21st century.

“Amendment R will modernize our state laws to advance that stronger system," Daugaard says. "I know there’s a lot on the ballot this year, in fact there’s ten ballot questions. And I’ve heard people say ‘Oh, there’s just too many things to study and understand. I just don’t know that I can manage this… I’m just going to vote no.’ And that’s what I worry about.”

The amendment allows the legislature to move oversight of technical schools away from the State Board of Education. The president of the Associated School Boards of South Dakota says the group is neutral on Amendment R.  

For more information on all South Dakota ballot measures, including pro and con statements, click here.