PIERRE, S.D. (AP) — The South Dakota Senate on Wednesday unanimously approved a proposal to start four schools based around Lakota, Dakota, and Nakota languages and cultures.
The House will next consider the proposal, which aims to address high drop-out rates in some Native communities in the state. The schools would teach an Oceti Sakowin curriculum centered on Lakota, Dakota, and Nakota language and cultures. It is pushed by a group of educators who are planning to open the schools in Native communities.
When Sen. Troy Heinert, a Democrat from Mission, introduced the bill, he had hefty opposition from Gov. Kristi Noem and education groups. But he was able to win the Republican governor's support through a re-write of the bill. He also won the support of the Republican-dominated Senate.
Education groups oppose the proposal, saying that the current school system can accommodate innovative programs.
The schools were originally called charter schools in the bill, but the term was switched to "community-based schools." The schools would need to apply to school districts to start within the district, and they would receive funding based on the number of students enrolled in the schools. They would purchase or lease school facilities independently from the school districts.