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DOE Civics Program Offers $200K in Grants to K-12 Public Schools

The state is offering $200,000—less than a quarter of the money allocated for Governor Kristi Noem’s dubious civics curriculum program—to help schools actually teach civics. The Department of Education announced last week that public K-12 schools have until May 3 to apply for grants to support “pilot programs that focus on strengthening civics/government and history education.” The DOE says grant applications should “align with one or more of the following priorities…”:

  1. Support and increase the capacity of K-12 educators, including at the elementary school level
  2. Provide high-quality, standards-aligned resources for voluntary use in local schools
  3. Provide real-life experiences for students
  4. Foster students who appreciate our country, state and story
  5. Increase students’ knowledge and experience so they can engage as informed citizens
  6. Grow students’ ability to participate in civil discourse on important issues [South Dakota Department of Education, “Strengthening Civics & History in South Dakota K-12 Education: Pilot Grants,” retrieved 2021.04.14]

Grants will be awarded July 1 of this year, so schools will be able to launch their pilot programs this fall.

I offer a simple and effective pilot program for boosting civic engagement among students: use the $200K to launch debate programs at ten schools not currently supporting interscholastic debates. $20K for each school would cover materials, tournament fees, travel, judge pay, and a reasonable stipend for the coach who would put in extra hours after school and on the road with the debaters through the winter debate season. It would also expose students to policy research, competitive public speaking, and rigorous evaluation and improvement of their rhetorical skills.

The DOE’s webpage on the civics initiative indicates the other $700K will be spent on professional development, a review of instructional materials, and the development of South Dakota materials. The last item is the most expensive—$550,000 DOE will start planning the professional development this summer; it will start working on the curriculum materials in early 2022.


  1. Owen 2021-04-14 08:50

    My question to Governor Noem is what will the content be and what is being taught now that is wrong?
    This is a question the media should ask.

  2. Donald Pay 2021-04-14 09:51

    As Owen says, it should start with what what is being done now. It should be a bottom up process to figure out what are the critical classroom needs and what will help teachers as they teach civics and history. This can’t be driven by the political agendas of pompous politicos with aspirations to being the saviors of education.

    I think the biggest gap that I recognized as a school board member a couple decades ago was in South Dakota/tribal history, and in basic civics. This was in Rapid City, so I had a limited view of the whole state. I, of course, like Cory’s ideas about debate, but there are lots of ways to make civics come alive.

    When I had basic civics class in junior high in the early 60’s, it was a dry, boring subject American Government class in high school was better, but that was because the teacher led interesting discussions. I also had a current events mini-class that discussed the weeks news. Some students also started a before school discussion group, which I didn’t attend. The late 60’s, even in pretty tame Sioux Falls, were a time when kids were more serious about world events and domestic politics, probably since Vietnam hung over their heads and cities were burning.

  3. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2021-04-14 12:45

    Owen, I suspect Kristi Noem has neither a comprehensive nor even a working knowledge of the actual civics content in our public high school curricula. I am more certain that she has no desire to actually create any specific Civics curriculum but teachers would find workable. She wants a campaign issue that lets her repeat over and over again how special America is. She’s not proposing education reform; she simply spouting a campaign slogan.

  4. Mark Anderson 2021-04-14 14:01

    O. You have to start with trump and learn to say nothing negative about him.

  5. leslie 2021-04-14 16:56

    As taught just today:

    Noem: “call me when you are an American”

    Deb Haaland: “@Interior can and will provide solutions to the ongoing health, economic, climate, and racial justice crises”

    B. Shapiro: “he’s [Biden] willing to concede to Iran and China regardless of what they do”

    Laurence Tribe: “160 yrs ago today, Confederate forces fired on Fort Sumter, launching a war to secure the ugly principle that some people are created to be dominated by others. Thankfully the Confederacy was defeated, though at unfathomable cost. Today’s insurrectionists want to refight that war.”

    Gov. Pete Ricketts declaring NE a “Second Amendment Sanctuary State”

    Deadlocked in a party-line vote on her nomination is Vanita Gupta to be associate attorney general/civil rights, but her confirmation is still on track with the expected support of moderate Democrat Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia. Leader Chuck Schumer will have to take procedural steps to advance her nomination to the Senate floor. Judicial Crisis Network, a conservative group that’s pushed to confirm conservative judges, launched an advertising campaign to try to sink Gupta’s nomination.

    McConnell: “American people…deserve a foreign policy that puts…our interests ahead of the reflexive desire to break with the last four years at any cost”

    Kristen Clarke: restoration of the Voting RIGHTS Act—“history has shown that Section 5 has been a powerful tool in combating ongoing voting discrimination”—Senate must #ConfirmClarke as DOJ Civil Rights head and #RestoreTheVRA to protect our freedom to vote.

  6. bearcreekbat 2021-04-14 17:33

    A bit more detail about leslie’s Noem quote “Call me when you are an American.” According to an online report of the RC Journal today, that quote is directed at the children who are begging Americans for help in escaping violence and poverty.

    Gov. Kristi Noem said Wednesday that South Dakota won’t house “illegal immigrants” as President Biden has been asking governors across the nation to help house migrant children.

    “South Dakota won’t be taking any illegal immigrants that the Biden Administration wants to relocate. My message to illegal immigrants … call me when you’re an American,” she tweeted.

    Thus, we need to teach SD kids Noem’s version of her modern SD values:

    When a child is hurting or in serious danger and needs our help, South Dakotan’s should slam the door in the kids’ faces unless each one can show you his or her naturalization papers, regardless of the child’s age, distress or abuse.

    Yeah, that’s a great use of our education dollars and can help create an entire generation of cold-hearted selfish South Dakotans. You tell em Kristi!

  7. mike from iowa 2021-04-14 17:44

    Noem’s alleged kristianity is the same the activist magat scotus supports, the kind that would drive Jesus to atheism.

  8. Arlo Blundt 2021-04-14 18:47

    well…the Governor needs to clarify her remarks to “South Dakota will not accept any illegal immigrant children unless they agree to milk dairy cows, flip burgers, clean up restaurant tables, shovel out hog enclosures or work on the line in packing plants.”

  9. John 2021-04-14 20:26

    noem is the anti-Christian.
    The churches in South Dakota should rise up to help the little children and smite the heathen worshiping South Dakota government.
    Having no original thought, noem borrows from Iowa’s heathen Governor Reynolds, who abused her office for Taliban religious advancement, to also smite Jesus command to let the little children come on to me.

    Does the clergy ever wonder why religion is falling by the wayside — they fail to walk the talk. They fail to live the proclamation. The clergy should smite the Pontious Pilate Noem and live the creed of love their neighbor as themselves.

    If the South Dakota Catholic Church has any soul left, and if the Lutheran Social Services has any conscience – they will resist noem’s nonsense with all their capability.

  10. Donald Pay 2021-04-15 08:38

    MFI, “Kristianity” is the perfect way to sum up her anti-Christian narcissism. Somehow you always find the right words.

  11. jake 2021-04-15 17:31

    Let’s hope Betsy Devos doesn’t need a job; Kristianity would spend more of our hard-earned SD taxpayer dollars and hire another Washington insider to dazzle us with her B.S.!!!

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