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Schools take center stage during third legislative week

Posted: Monday, Feb 4th, 2013

HURON – Clear, straight-from-the heart testimony from Huron school officials is helping to move a bill through the Legislature to appropriate extra funding for districts strapped with costs for English as a Second Language programs.

“We took an approach that this is an extension of the workplace initiative,” Sen. Jim White, R-Huron, said at Saturday’s second legislative forum.

White and Rep. Dick Werner, R-Huron, are leading the charge to get Democratic Rep. Peggy Gibson’s original bill passed this year. It would appropriate $2.5 million for ESL programs in local school districts.

It makes sense to address the issue statewide because 77 districts are already impacted by ESL needs, White said.

The bipartisan bill passed the Senate Education Committee after local school superintendents and other educators testified in favor of it.

There were no opponents and it now goes to the Senate floor.

Gibson termed it a wonderful piece of legislation that equalizes the English language issue for students.

A representative of an Aberdeen company said the business would not be in operation if it did not have “new Americans” to fill all the needed jobs, White said.

In return for additional state sales tax revenues, the bill asks that a portion of the funding go to local school districts to cover additional costs of teaching English.

Meanwhile, the bill that would allow teachers and others to be armed in the schools, with the approval of the local school board, passed the House, but was not supported by Gibson or Werner.

Gibson said she believes there are sufficient measures in place to protect students and teachers.

“I have a concern we’re heading off a potential issue by creating another issue,” Werner said in explaining his opposition.

With high school government students in the audience, Gibson talked about bills heard this week that came out of a teen driving task force she served on.

Legislators are considering proposals that will hopefully prevent injury and fatal crashes involving teen drivers.

Among them are bills to revise instruction permits and restricted minor’s permits, ban texting and driving and limit the number of passengers in vehicles driven by the holder of a restricted minor’s permit.

Another measure would establish a statewide driver’s education program.

White said while he questions how it would be enforced, he favors a texting and driving ban.

Proposals for projects involving the State Fair continue to look promising.

Backed by Gov. Dennis Daugaard, one bill would give the Legislature authority to authorize $4 million to build a 4-H complex on the state fairgrounds.

“When we talked about that process, we talked about how big 4-H is in South Dakota,” White said.

Funding would come from private sources, just as it does for major projects on the campuses of South Dakota State University and the University of South Dakota.

A second bill would appropriate $100,000 to bring in two governor’s houses to the state fairgrounds to house inmates working on the grounds.

The funds would come out of the State Fair budget. But the fair would save $20,000 a year by not having to contract with outside labor.

Gibson said it’s a positive sign to have the governor’s support for the fair, which hasn’t always been the case in the past. State Fair Park is the largest camping facility in the state.

Daugaard is interested in the state park system because of tourism, and is supporting improvement projects as well as the creation of a new park near the South Dakota and Iowa border.

Blood Run would be the 13th state park, located on a 600-acre site.

In the Appropriations Committee sessions, White, Werner and the other members continue to hear from state departments. They listened to a presentation from the board of regents on plans for the universities, as well as reports from the Department of Transportation, in the military and veteran’s affairs.

Representatives of the technical institutes also addressed the committee on that growing area of the economy, Werner said.

“It was very enlightening,” he said.

Werner and White were also named to a health insurance subcommittee to look at ways to control costs.

For the complete article see the 02-03-2013 issue.

Click here to purchase an electronic version of the 02-03-2013 paper.

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