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American Indian education package receives final approval from House

PIERRE--The state House of Representatives strongly supported a package of legislation Tuesday intended to help improve education of American Indian students in South Dakota.

PIERRE-The state House of Representatives strongly supported a package of legislation Tuesday intended to help improve education of American Indian students in South Dakota.

Two of the three measures go to the desk of Gov. Dennis Daugaard next for his review.

SB 81 creates a tuition assistance program for training paraprofessionals to become teachers at public school districts with high enrollments of Indian students. Its estimated cost is $430,000.

Rep. Shawn Bordeaux, D-Mission, called it "a grow your own" concept.

House members voted for it 61-5.

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SB 82 establishes the American Indian achievement schools grant program. Bordeaux said the purpose is to try different ways to teach American Indian students who aren't succeeding in traditional public-school settings.

Up to three public schools with enrollments of American Indian students and below-average achievement scores would qualify. The estimated cost is $1.8 million.

"It's very important," Rep. Jacqueline Sly, R-Rapid City, said.

She said the graduation rate for American Indian students is approximately half the rate for the overall population.

SB 82 needs to return to the Senate for a decision whether to agree with some House amendments.

The prime sponsor of SB 81 and SB 82 is Sen. Troy Heinert, D-Mission.

"That's what this is about, educational choice," Rep. Kevin Killer, D-Pine Ridge, said.

Killer thanked the American Indian student achievement task force members and the governor for appointing the panel last year.

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"It's something we need to do sooner rather than later," Killer said about seeking new approaches.

House members approved SB 82 on a vote of 60-8.

The appropriations measure for the two programs is SB 9. It contains $2.2 million. House members approved it 62-6.

Related Topics: EDUCATION
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