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Feud renewed over student addresses

By Bob Mercer

State Capitol Bureau

PIERRE — An old feud is open again between South Dakota’s public technical institutes and state universities.

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The post-secondary institutions are battling over the names and addresses of middle- and high-school students.

The Legislature’s planning committee this week decided school districts should provide the information to the technical institutes, too.

School districts already must give that information to the executive director for the state Board of Regents, which governs the state universities. That requirement has been in force since 2002.

The full Legislature will decide in the 2014 session whether school districts will have to give that information to both.

In 2002, the Legislature directed school districts to annually provide by Nov. 1 a list of students by name in grades seven through 12, including each student’s address.

The law says the regents “shall use the information to inform the parents and guardians of any such student in any public middle school and high school about the courses needed to prepare for post-secondary level work and about the benefits of such preparation.”

Tad Perry, of Fort Pierre, was the regents’ executive director at the time. He said the regents were attempting to get information into the hands of parents about what their children needed to be ready for college.

“Our goal was to increase preparedness and decrease remediation,” Perry said. He recalled meetings involving tech-school officials regarding the mailings.

Those mailings have taken many forms. The latest happens to show all 10 institutions — the six state universities and the four public tech institutes — with their logos.

Unmentioned were any private or tribal colleges, universities or tech schools.

“The legislation was not designated for marketing activities by the regents and we were specifically directed by the legislature not to use the mail list for such purposes,” said Janelle Toman, a spokeswoman for the regents. “We have honored that commitment to this day. The list is retained in our office and we do not share it with our campuses.”

The regents’ control of the student information came to the attention of the Legislature’s planning committee at its July 11 meeting.

Julie Brookbank, director of marketing for Mitchell Technical Institute, said the tech schools don’t have access to student information in the same way as the state universities do.

Mark Wilson, president of Western Dakota Technical Institute at Rapid City, told the committee that legislation would be needed to get the student information to the tech schools.

Brookbank’s and Wilson’s comments came as part of dialogue with several legislators that day, including Sen. Mike Vehle, R-Mitchell, and Sen. Ryan Maher, R-Isabel.

No one from the Board of Regents or state universities testified that day. On Monday, the committee met and, in its only definitive action, decided to pursue the legislation on behalf of the tech institutes.

A member of the regent staff attended the meeting, but the committee didn’t ask for any testimony or seek a review by the regent staff of the proposed legislation.

“The Board of Regents uses the student names for mailings to promote planning for the students’ post-secondary education,” said Deb Shephard, president of Lake Area Technical Institute at Watertown. “It was pointed out the tech institutes should have that same opportunity, especially in light of most jobs not needing a bachelor’s degree.”

The 2002 legislation sailed through the Senate but barely passed in the House of Representatives. Among the senators voting for it was now-Gov. Dennis Daugaard, while one of the opponents in the House was now-Lt. Gov. Matt Michels.

Daugaard this week said his position hasn’t changed.

“I continue to support the 2002 bill because it is important that students and parents to understand the consequences of their decisions when they are enrolling for courses,” he said.

“I oppose expanding the use of this information beyond that current purpose. I need to understand how this information would be used under this proposal, because it should not be used to promote any specific institution or program.”