Senate committee fails to pass Noem’s education reform bill

Senators on the Education committee defeated a bill Thursday morning that was a major policy prerogative of Governor Kristi Noem in the 2022 legislative session.
Published: Mar. 3, 2022 at 1:42 PM CST
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PIERRE, S.D. - The second of Gov. Kristi Noem’s two education reform bills failed to gain the approval of the Senate Education committee by a narrow vote of 4 to 3 on Thursday.

HB 1337, which bill language stated would “protect elementary and secondary students from political indoctrination,” was killed by the committee after several hours of testimony.

Proponents of the bill, including those from Noem’s office, argued that the bill would protect students from political indoctrination, and most notably, keep critical race theory (CRT) out of the classroom.

However, opponents argued that the bill would lessen teachers ability to teach controversial or sensitive topics to students, and ultimately chill free speech.

The bill failed despite efforts to make it more palatable to skeptical committee members. State Sen. Wayne Steinhauer (R-Hartford) offered an amendment that struck two concepts defined as a “divisive topics” by the bill. One concept struck the section that defined individuals feeling “discomfort, guilt, (or) anguish,” on account of “the individual’s race, color, religion, sex, ethnicity, or national origin.”

While Steinhauer’s amendment ultimately passed, the bill failed due to skepticism about the timing.

“This bill is premature, we should take care of this through public input and the curriculum reform mechanism,” said committee chair State Sen. Blake Curd (R-Sioux Falls).

The defeat of the bill comes after HB 1012, a similar bill dealing with post-secondary institutions, passed the same committee by a one vote margin on Tuesday. That bill has yet to be considered on the Senate floor.

The bill’s defeat is a major blow to the governor’s office, which has spearheaded education reform as a top priority this legislative session. Senators would have three days to “smoke the bill out” on the Senate floor, if they chose to do so.

“We are still working to ensure that K-12 students learn America’s true and honest history,” Noem’s spokesperson Ian Fury said in a statement to Dakota News Now following the bills defeat.

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