Jackelyn Severin

Freelance journalist based in Sioux Falls, SD.

New approach to early learning hopes to improve access

South Dakota families are struggling to find quality childcare. Affordable preschool opportunities are also in high demand. A new approach addresses this crisis with early learning communities throughout the state. The goal is to promote better access at the local level. Kayla Klein walks through Manuel Brothers Park in Lead, South Dakota showing me what she calls an early learning trail. There are posted signs along with painted sidewalk displays of colorful letters, pictures, numbers, and a f

DSU's cyber lab part of $288,000,000 package for state universities

South Dakota Lawmakers have approved an unprecedented amount of funding for the state’s higher education system. The legislature appropriated a total of nearly $288 million for special one-time projects on all 6 of the state’s university campuses. Around 87% of that money is for the construction and renovation of university buildings. The main funding source for these building projects comes from private donations which require legislative approval to spend. One big-ticket item that lawmakers

Two South Dakota teachers receive national excellence awards

Nicole Bowman teaches algebra and geometry at T.F. Riggs High school in Pierre. She has taught for 15 years and uses small group instruction to personalize learning. Bowman says she spends time working on her student’s mindset in the classroom. She wants her students to believe they can be good at math. “I encourage the efforts that are given, especially after the mistakes are made, because that shows the perseverance. And so, making sure my students know that it’s not necessarily about the ou

Senate approves legislation keeping 'divisive concepts' out of secondary education

State senators have approved legislation aiming to protect students and employees from “divisive concepts” at state universities and technical colleges. The bill passed the Senate by a vote of 27 to 8. Similar legislation for K-12 public schools was killed by a Senate committee. House Bill 1012 prevents universities and technical colleges from directing or compelling students “to personally affirm, adopt, or adhere to divisive concepts.” The bill lists seven definitions of a divisive concept. I

Bill preventing divisive concepts like 'Critical Race Theory' in K-12 schools fails

A measure to prevent the promotion of divisive concepts in K through 12 public schools has been defeated. After, 3 hours of testimony and discussion the Senate Education committee killed House Bill 1337 by a vote of 4 to 3. House Bill 1337 began as an act to protect elementary and secondary students from political indoctrination. It was introduced by Governor Kristi Noem’s office as way to ban Critical Race Theory from being taught in K-12 schools. The bill was heavily amended in the House befo

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

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.

Measure allowing schools to pay signing bonuses passes House

A measure allowing school districts to pay signing bonuses for new staff members is making its way through the South Dakota legislature. Currently, school districts can give signing bonuses to new teachers but not other types of employees. Representative Bethany Soye is a republican from Sioux Falls and is sponsoring House Bill 1308. Soye says school districts need more options to compete in the current job market. "Without incentives, such as hiring bonuses, school staff positions sit open wh

Bill extending kindergarten enrollment moves to Senate

A bill that extends the date for kindergarten enrollment has passed the House and is now moving through the state Senate. Right now, any child who turns 5 on or before September 1st is eligible to enroll in kindergarten. House Bill 1163 keeps the September 1st deadline. It also allows children who turn 5 between September 1st and October 31st to enroll if they pass a readiness assessment selected by their local school district. Republican Representative Jess Olson of Rapid City is the prime sp

Measure requiring schools post teaching materials online fails in committee

A legislative measure requiring k-12 schools to post teaching materials online has died in committee. The bill would also require schools to post employee professional development and orientation materials, and a catalog of all books and resources at a school’s library. Under the measure, a school could be sued if it doesn’t comply. Proponents say it is important for schools to be more transparent and allow parents to review what their kids are taught. Carolyn Hoefler has a child enrolled in th

Noem’s bill banning Critical Race Theory in universities and tech schools passes committee

A legislative committee has passed Governor Kristi Noem’s bill banning the teaching of Critical Race Theory in state universities and technical schools. Critical Race Theory is an academic concept that studies how racism is embedded in legal systems and policies. House Bill 10-12 was heavily amended by the House Education Committee. However, the amended version still aligns with Governor Noem’s goal to ban the teaching of Critical Race Theory in state universities and technical colleges. The b

'Under God the People Rule' in schools passes Committee

The South Dakota House Education Committee has passed a measure requiring public schools to display the state seal or state motto. South Dakota’s state motto is “Under God the People Rule.” Proponents of House Bill 11-19 say displaying the seal or motto will serve as a reminder of the state’s ideals. Debbie Pease with Family Heritage Alliance spoke in favor of the measure. “I like the flexibility that the bill provides to schools allowing them to use student artwork to fulfill this requirement

Beaded graduation caps pass, other Native representation bills killed

A measure allowing Native American students to wear beaded graduation caps has passed the House Education Committee. However, the committee killed two other bills dealing with the representation of Native Americans in public schools. The beaded-cap bill expands on existing law allowing Native American students to wear eagle feathers at graduation. The other bills discussed by the House Education committee were House Bill 1184 and 1183. House bill 1184 required schools to play the Lakota Flag

Bill requiring Oceti Sakowin history & culture be taught in SD schools is voted down

Lawmakers have voted down a bill to require Native American history and culture in state-approved social studies curriculum. The Oceti Sakowin Essential Understandings are a set of resources and lesson plans adopted by the State Board of Education Standards. The curriculum focuses on cultural teachings of the Dakota, Lakota and Nakota. It is available for teachers to use but not mandatory. House Bill 1170 would have required its use in South Dakota public schools. Representative Peri Pourier

Bill increasing private school scholarships makes way through the legislature

A bill that increases funding for private school scholarships is making its way through the legislature. In 2016 state lawmakers approved a scholarship program that gives money to low-income students who want to attend a private k-12 school in the state. The scholarships are funded through tax credits given to insurance companies. Insurance companies must pay an insurance premium tax to the state. Instead of paying that tax, they can choose to give all or part of it to the not-for-profit South

Lawmakers kill Noem’s bill requiring a moment of silence in schools

State lawmakers have killed Governor Kristi Noem’s bill requiring a moment of silence in schools for prayer or reflection. House Bill 1015 would have required schools to institute a moment of silence of up to one minute at the beginning of each school day. The moment of silence was intended to allow time for students and employees to pray, meditate or engage in quiet reflection. The bill says that no school employee may dictate a student’s action during the moment of silence. Allen Cambon is a

Committee advances bills aimed at expanding nursing programs

Senate Education Committee members voted Tuesday to approve three bills aimed at expanding nursing programs in South Dakota. The first is Senate Bill 43 which provides for a new health sciences center on the Black Hills State University-Rapid City campus. The center would house a joint nursing program from Black Hills State and South Dakota State University. With the new addition, the program can expand from 72 to 120 nursing students. The project cost is around $15 million: $8 million would co

Board of Regents requests ~$240 million in state general funds for FY23

The Board of Regents is asking lawmakers for around $240 million in state general funds for fiscal year 2023. The Regents and University officials presented their budget proposals to members of the Joint Appropriations committee Wednesday. The Regents also say they may need to raise tuition to cover the cost of salary increases. The Board of Regents proposed a total budget of around 830 million dollars. Around 90 million of that would come from federal funds. Around 500 million would come from

Opportunity centers will replace campus diversity offices but not services

In January, South Dakota universities will replace student diversity offices with opportunity centers. The South Dakota Board of Regents says despite the name change, services for diverse student groups will remain. Governor Kristi Noem asked members of the Board of Regents recently if campus diversity offices were quote “still operating within the scope of their original mission” unquote. The comment came in a letter from Noem criticizing the concept of Critical Race Theory. Tim Rave is servi

South Dakota teacher salaries increase, but the state once again ranks 50th in the nation

Back in 2015 things looked grim in terms of teacher salary. Wade Pogany, president of the Associated School Boards of South Dakota, said the state was last in the nation. “We saw teacher shortages, pretty significant teacher shortages,” he said. “And the legislature, Gov. Daugaard, knew that something needed to be done. We were really in a crisis.” To address this crisis Gov. Dennis Daugaard and the legislature established the Blue Ribbon Task Force that made recommendations to change the scho
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