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South Dakota Educators Association avoids stance on NEA “Critical Race Theory” vote

The South Dakota Education Association is being forced to balance the political desires of a deeply red state, with those of the national union that they are affiliated with.
Critical race theory graphic
Critical race theory graphic(Associated Press)
Published: Jul. 10, 2021 at 1:11 PM CDT
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PIERRE, S.D. - Critical Race Theory (CRT) has been at the center of political discussions for the last several months, and South Dakota has been no exception.

Governor Kristi Noem and her Secretary of Education, Tiffany Sanderson, have both spoken out against the teaching of critical race theory. Former Secretary of Education and current State Historian Ben Jones has also indicated his opposition to the teaching style.

State legislators have indicated that in the 2022 state legislative session, they would like to see the teaching style banned as well.

“I don’t know what specifically the legislation would look like, but I think there is a lot of concern about making sure this far-left ideology doesn’t end up in our school system,” said State Rep. Jon Hansen (R-Dell Rapids). Hansen also serves as Speaker Pro Tempore. “I am sure that it will be addressed.”

Last week during their annual meeting, the National Educators Association (NEA) voted on “New Business Item 39,” which would support CRT and its teaching in schools. However, South Dakota Education Association (SDEA) President Loren Paul voted against the business item.

“What we believe in is honesty, and complete education, which is teaching the good and the bad in the history of our great country,” said Paul.

“New Business Item 39″ passed the delegation, but was later deleted from the NEA’s website.

As a state affiliate, the SDEA sent ten delegates to the virtual NEA convention, and indicated that as a group, they neither took a position of support or opposition on the CRT business item. However, it is unclear how a majority of South Dakota delegates who took part in the convention voted on the business item individually.

The NEA has about three million members nationwide. The South Dakota chapter is made up of about 5,000 teachers, just under half of those in the state.

Paul argues that as it currently stands, CRT cannot necessarily be taught in South Dakota schools.

“I think our process in this state works very well,” Paul explained. “The Governor appoints the board, the board gets input from the public and educators, and it is set by the Board of Education Standards. Our educators have to teach to those standards.”

Many argue that the issue is all for naught, and that CRT is not necessarily taught outside of high level college graduate courses.

“The largest teachers union in the country, who is a parent company of our SDEA, says that they support CRT,” Hansen said. “They want it allowed, or at least don’t want it banned, in our schools. I think there are going to be a lot of parents out there who want to trust that when they send their kids to school, they aren’t being taught a far-left ideology.”

The South Dakota Department of Education did not respond to inquiries about whether or not it would be possible to teach CRT within the current boundaries of existing curriculum. The department’s Board of Education Standards will host public hearings prior to the adoption of new content standards over the duration of the summer and fall, in accordance with state law.