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HB 1234: Hansen Wants Vouchers to Send Public Money to Religious Schools

Update 2023.02.03: Yikes! A reader catches me in sloppy linking and reading. I mistakenly linked to and cited the tuition at O’Gorman High School in Las Vegas. I have updated this post to reflect tuition at South Dakota religious indoctrination centers, as provided by our helpful reader below. I apologize for my shameful error.

The radical right-wingers in the Legislature are ready to move beyond stealth vouchers and advocate straight-up public funding of religious schools. Yesterday Representative Jon Hansen (R-25/Dell Rapids) filed House Bill 1234, which would require the Department of Education to give vouchers for private-school tuition to any parent requesting that assistance. The value of the voucher, would would send state money to the private school the parent chooses, would be either the actual tuition the school charges or the per-student equivalent the state calculates in its formula for public schools, whichever is less.

The per student equivalent in current law (SDCL 13-13-10.1) is $5,158.57. The current tuition at Sioux Falls Catholic Schools varies by grade and religious location and persuasion:

Elementary Junior High High School
Catholics from Sioux Falls  $4,135  $4,695  $6,200
Catholics from outside Sioux Falls  $4,750  $5,335  $7,010
Heathens  $5,535  $6,190  $7,675

Rapid City’s Catholic schools plan  to charge more than that in the coming school year, plus registration fees and class fees:

Rapid City Catholic Schools tuition and fees, AY 2023–2024, retrieved 2023.02.03.
Rapid City Catholic Schools tuition and fees, AY 2023–2024, retrieved 2023.02.03.

Aberdeen Catholic Schools offer the best deal on private school tuition in South Dakota’s three biggest towns; plus, the “Family Maximum” gives big families a discount for enrolling in bulk:

Aberdeen Catholic Schools, Tuition and Fees AY 2022–2023, retrieved 2023.02.03.
Aberdeen Catholic Schools, Tuition and Fees AY 2022–2023, retrieved 2023.02.03.

Aberdeen is the only one of these three Catholic school systems where HB 1234 would provide every child the equal access to alternative education opportunities that Hansen claims is his goal. But don’t lose sight of Hansen’s real objectives, to give private school honcos another windfall from their cronies in Pierre, to drain the state budget to weaken public schools, and to leave the majority of South Dakota students with less access to a good education, which is necessary to help responsible citizens see through Jon Hansen’s theocratic bushwah.


  1. O 2023-02-02 08:23

    We do not pay taxes to send our students to school. We pay taxes so that our communities can have the infrastructure to offer a free public education to our students. When vouchers and other diversions from the public education institutions are eroded, children get left out. Never the children of the affluent — just the “others” who were struggling a bit more economically in the first place. These vouchers will not allow those who currently cannot afford private education to pay for private education, and this bill does not force privates to accept ALL students for this voucher. If this were to force the burden of public education onto the privates (not just the cash flow), then maybe there could be a discussion. As it stands, I don’t want my tax money being channelled into a failing business.

    I also want representation if my tax dollars go into private schools. I want votes to elect the boards that make the decisions at those schools that now use my money.

  2. Donald Pay 2023-02-02 09:14

    Once again, if you go down this path you end up with taxpayers paying for two school systems. South Dakota taxpayers can’t adequately fund one system, let along two. Get ready for higher taxes or cannibalizing the current public schools. And get ready to not have any administrative or taxpayer oversight of private schools. Get ready for education fraud, as we have had in Wisconsin.

    I’m a strict constructionist when it comes to the Constitution. The South Dakota Constitution provides for one school system, not multiple school systems:

    “Chapter 8 § 1. Uniform system of free public schools. The stability of a republican form of government depending on the morality and intelligence of the people, it shall be the duty of the Legislature to establish and maintain a general and uniform system of public schools wherein tuition shall be without charge, and equally open to all; and to adopt all suitable means to secure to the people the advantages and opportunities of education.”

    How do you get around that plain language to fund multiple systems of education. That is not a “uniform system of public schools.” If you do this you have to assure that “tuition shall be without charge.” So, you have to end tuition at private schools. Do you think they will go for that? Do you think private schools will be “equally open to all?” They haven’t shown that in all of their years of operation.

    I think there is a place for private schools, but they should remain as an alternative to public schools, not as part of a quasi-public school without the administrative and taxpayer checks and balances available and not with public funding.

  3. Richard Schriever 2023-02-02 09:17

    So, a high school diploma’s from O’Gorman cost is about the same (inflation adjusted) as my Augie BAs, and my California PhD in terms of annual heathens’ tuition. Interesting.

  4. Richard Schriever 2023-02-02 09:28

    Forgot to add that my private school higher education endeavors (The Cali school was also private) was funded in part by various federal grant and aid programs. There are no state funds that I know for private higher ed, but I may be uninformed about that. Should the federal government be involved in funding private education? Perhaps that would be deemed a prohibition against the free exercise of religion – or non-exercise of same. Does this consideration drag us into the weeds of doing away with the DOE?

  5. Jake 2023-02-02 10:03

    Having been totally against raising taxes in any form to pay for the needs of society, this GOP (Glutenous Old Party) now wants the rest of society to pay to have its kids educated in its way of thinking.

  6. larry kurtz 2023-02-02 10:52

    Republicans are creating an immense bureaucracy to impose their will on constituents so maybe they’re not really about small gubmint at all.

  7. Mark Anderson 2023-02-02 11:16

    The Republicans of Ohio have created a wonderful schooling for many. “We have fought hard for our right to homeschooling, without homeschooling the children, our children are left defenseless to the schools and the Gay Afro Zionist scum that run them.” Now they use handwritten Hitler quotes. Mrs Saxon posted “It is up to us to ensure our children know him for the deceitful, dishonest, riot-inciting negro he actually was.” Refering to MLK of course. She continues, “He is the face of a movement which ethnically cleansed whites out of urban areas and participated in the anti-white regime that we are now fighting to free ourselves from.” This is a group from Sandusky, Ohio.
    Desantis needs to hire them for new curriculum development in Florida, just right up his line. Noem could too.

  8. All Mammal 2023-02-02 11:20

    Aren’t the Catholic schools going to get fat enough once our new Secretary of Social Services, chancellor of Catholic diocese, Matt Althoff, is able to kidnap as many Native children he pleases and has access to use state funds of up to some $50,000 to educate them? That is an enticing incentive to steal even more children without cause and feed them to the Children’s Home Society to be doped up. Once all the vampires get full, they become another ‘non exit’. It was set up by Janklow for our poor state’s income and it is alive and well fed. Over 100 kids in Rapid City per year alone are whisked off after an average 4 minute decision by a judge, according to the report I linked below. Once the Department of Social Services gets the cash incentive to embezzle for the church, kids will be taken like free weave tracks at a Detroit hair show.

    My predictions don’t always actualize. I hope this one is just low expectations and I am wrong. Most of the time however, my expectations of our state government aren’t low enough.

  9. jkl 2023-02-02 13:09

    I believe if the Sioux Falls Muslim community will start a school that will stop this.

  10. P. Aitch 2023-02-02 14:08

    With the best and brightest cherry picked away from public school it’s easier for MAGA’s to defund humanities classes.
    ~ In academic circles, humanities’ decades-long decline is blamed for the proliferation of falsehoods on social media, crass political discourse, the rise in racism and the parlous state of democracy (not to mention our etiolated vocabularies). – AXIOS

  11. Bill Poppen 2023-02-02 14:52

    I have a contention. Public schools are doing too good of a job educating our youth. Public schools are generally responsive to the public demands for improving history classes, emphasizing inclusivity, and enhancing mathematics and reading instruction.
    This irritates Republicans because educated people vote against many of their ideas.

    Republicans argued for Charter Schools. Few have excelled or obtained to the level of public schools. Republicans argued for “School Choice.” Most transfers were because of school athletic programs or mere convenience. Republicans argued for standardized testing. Most schools were already doing this, but Republicans thought the state’s education department should control the date. Next came the argument for merit pay for teachers and for evaluating teachers via the test results. Sadly, few of these ideas have significantly impacted public education. Students learned, in some cases, despite regulations imposed on professional education and professional educators.

  12. Jake 2023-02-02 15:45

    Why not turn ALL state moneys over to the SD Taliban-then we can be just like Afghanistan?!

  13. grudznick 2023-02-02 18:12

    Whatever you want to say about the deep state shadow government that imbues the Council of Research for the Legislatures, grudznick does find it amusing they save the law bill number for bills that raise the irk level of Mr. H.

  14. Bonnie B Fairbank 2023-02-02 18:28

    I’ve no idea what the “deep state shadow government” is. Can any member here (other than grudz) enlighten me?

  15. larry kurtz 2023-02-02 19:24

    The Sioux Falls Diocese is the deep state in South Dakota and they keep Lee Schoenbeck is on retainer.

  16. larry kurtz 2023-02-02 19:27

    Rome has a sum stashed in South Dakota banks and trusts that would stun voters.

  17. grudznick 2023-02-02 19:55

    My close personal friend Lar is probably righter-than-right that most if not all of the Research Council for the Legislatures is completely and 100% Catholic, or at least holeyer-than-us church thugs.

  18. JO 2023-02-02 20:00

    The Sioux Falls Muslim community should build a mosque. Would that cause reconsideration of SD taxes funding private schools? I was educated in Catholic elementary and high school and paid tuition in the 60-70’s back when it was affordable. Nuns provided free help. Not many entering the calling. Why does SD want to compete with Mississippi for the lowest paid educators? Pay SD teachers more money. Legalize recreational marijuana. Use those taxes for funding education and many other worthy infrastructure projects. Duh.

  19. All Mammal 2023-02-02 22:05

    The Publicly Schooled
    At the bus stop gettin crueled
    Snow in my nose from gettin white washed
    Now I’m cussin and red like I’m sloshed
    Asking for more is a must
    As we file off the bus
    Now I’m late for attendance
    And the pledge of allegiance
    Try to sneak to my seat
    Good student cuz I cheat
    Pass a note during class
    Ask my friend, “You bring the grass?”
    She checked the box that said yes
    So we met downwind at recess
    During science goofin off, actin blubbery
    Even made some major discovery
    Then kept on task at teacher’s behest
    Can’t believe I aced my test
    Musta done it outa spite
    Just to prove to the fogies that the kids are all right.

  20. O 2023-02-02 22:11

    Catholics don’t even get 10% off the top at O’Gorman? Rough.

  21. Richard Schriever 2023-02-03 10:10

    JO – the local mosque has been in operation on E 6th street in SF for decades.

  22. Usually lurking; today, fact checking 2023-02-03 16:40

    Your tuition link is incorrect; you’ve linked to the tuition at Bishop Gorman school in Las Vegas, Nevada. It’s actually a fairly renowned school in terms of high-level athletic talent; they travel nationwide and host elite tourneys in several sports. When you were digging up the link, you should have looked around the website and checked out their campus – a far cry from anything around here.

    As you can see in the links below, the tuition for Catholic schools in South Dakota is roughly half of what you’ve incorrectly indicated, depending on location, grade level, how you structure payments and if you’re an active Catholic family. (In regards to the term active Catholic: Several years ago tuition was restructured so that being baptized Catholic no longer automatically qualified a student for reduced tuition. An active Catholic family means: do you regularly attend your home church, do you contribute either monetarily or by volunteering to teach, to usher, to serve on Altar Guild, etc, do your children attend CCD, etc. It is not self-determined; there are forms to be filled out and signed by the priest of your home parish.)

    Sioux Falls Catholic Schools (i.e., the recently renamed Bishop O’Gorman Schools) tuition is here:

    Also, the Rapid City Catholic Schools tuition is here (pdf file): chrome-extension://efaidnbmnnnibpcajpcglclefindmkaj/

    Oh, right, Roncalli. Hold on…also a pdf file:

    Please understand that I don’t presume to speak for any of the Catholic schools. But I feel I should add that they all have need-based tuition assistance (financial information is sent to an independent service and awards are NOT based on athletic merit) and the schools also have graphs and data showing cost of education and how much of that cost is covered by tuition, donations, congregational and diocese support and endowments. Spoiler alert: they are not making money on tuition.

    Also, assuming that the schools are filled with nothing but rich families weakens your argument. Several families scrimp and save and rely on tuition assistance in order for their children to attend, and not every family supports bills like these. As a previous commenter pointed out, public education benefits everyone, not just the families with school-age children. We knew we would effectively “pay twice” for our kids’ elementary and secondary education, and that was a financial sacrifice we were willing to make. (PSA for similar families: 529 funds can be used for private and parochial schools starting at the elementary level:

  23. Donald Pay 2023-02-03 21:23

    Usually lurking states this: “Several families scrimp and save and rely on tuition assistance in order for their children to attend, and not every family supports bills like these.”

    Yes, that is probably true, but that is their choice. If they want a private education for one reason or another, then it is up to them to pay for that education, or take advantage of whatever scholarships are available.

  24. bearcreekbat 2023-02-04 01:34

    “Scrimping and saving” is an interesting concept, which sometimes might even involve an actual “choice” as described by Donald.

    Unfortunately, too many families have no reasonable choice but to “scrimp and save” enough to pay their monthly heat bills in the winter, while still being able to pay rent in a timely manner, or “scrimp and save” enough to cover the ever rising cost of gas and repairs to keep their 20 year old car with 240,000 miles going for another year.

    But if a family is fortunate enough to have more income and resources than needed to cover all their basic needs, they might call it “scrimping and saving” if they have the choice of dedicating their excess income to non-essential purchases, like paying tuition for a private school. rather than sending their child to a free public school. This could easily mean choosing to give up that new set of furniture, or that golf club membership, or trips to the beauty salon, or that new car every year. Maybe a government funded scholarship to a private school could increase the family’s ability to afford a few of these extra desires and still have enough left over to pay a portion of the private shool tuition.

  25. M 2023-02-04 07:12

    Public schools accept everyone while private schools don’t.

    Public schools are accountable to the public, while private schools are not.

    Public money for public schools only.

  26. All Mammal 2023-02-04 08:33

    I agree with M. If we all had the choice to get public funding for wherever we choose to send our kid, we would see prep schools popping up. We don’t even have a military school in SD. The church doesn’t have better educators than public school. Their ‘advantage’ is they get to be stuck-up by not attending school with people they find undesirable. Good for them, hey. Pay for being stuck-up without the taxpayer’s money. If my ghetto kid is unwelcome next to your kid, then my ghetto money doesn’t need to pay for your kid’s exclusive school.

  27. All Mammal 2023-02-04 08:38

    Furthermore, if I am paying for anyone’s education, they need to be taught science. In five languages:p

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