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Noem’s Foster-Vouchers Back, Get House Floor Debate Monday

In double-proof that no bill is ever really fully dead in Pierre, House Local Government yesterday dug up Senate Bill 82, a sensible poll-watcher regulation that it killed back on February 7, and hoghoused it to revive Governor Kristi Noem’s foster-kids-voucher plan, which Senate Education ashcanned on February 7.

As now surprisingly amended, SB 82 copies the language of SB 100, the plan Noem borrowed from ALEC to use foster children as political props to send more public dollars to South Dakota’s private religious schools. While the Governor proposed $15,000,000 for this church-school subsidy, House Local Government has left the funding at $1, the blank used in the South Dakota Legislature to allow a bill to go to negotiation in conference committee. House Local Government endorses the $4,000 level for each child; the question before negotiators will be how many such vouchers they will fund.

It may be hard to convince the right-leaning House to kill the voucher program that SB 82 now revives, but let’s at least remind the more level heads in the Senate that vouchers stink:

From 2005 to 2010, I was part of an official evaluation of a voucher plan called the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program, or MPCP, in Wisconsin. “Official” because it was required by state law, since back then even voucher advocates agreed that lawmakers and parents alike needed to know how these programs were doing.

Our evaluation tracked more than 2,500 voucher kids alongside 2,500 carefully matched public school kids. After five years, we found very little difference on test scores between the two groups.

We did see some small positive results for graduation rates, and we did learn that when No Child Left Behind-style accountability was required of voucher schools, their results got better. But in a separate study we also saw low-income families as well as Black students returning to Milwaukee’s public schools — and doing much better.

Vouchers fail to deliver for the kids who are often most in need.

The end of the Milwaukee evaluation coincided almost exactly with the circulation of a report showing shockingly bad early test score results for students in the Louisiana voucher program in the years following Hurricane Katrina.

Over time, those poor test score results for vouchers held up, and were replicated by other studies.

…Today we know that those bad Louisiana academic outcomes were no fluke, and indeed were beginning to appear in places like Indiana and Ohio.

All of these results have a straightforward explanation: vouchers do not work on the large scale pushed for by advocates today. While small, early pilot voucher programs showed at least modest positive results, expansions statewide have been awful for students. That’s because there aren’t enough decent private schools to serve at-risk kids [Joshua Cowen, “After Two Decades of Studying Voucher Programs, I’m Now Firmly Opposed to Them,” Hechinger Report, 2022.07.20].

When it comes to K-12 education, the state has one job: provide a free, fair, and adequate system of public schools that accepts and educates every student. To do that job right, the state must devote every dollar it gets from its stingy and strapped taxpayers to maintaining the public schools at full strength, not outsourcing its constitutional duty to religious zealots and other private entities who are not required or inclined to fulfill the promise of accessible, effective education to every South Dakota child.

SB 82 is one of 19 bills on the House floor debate calendar for Monday, the last day each chamber has to pass bills from its colleagues across the staircase. Legislators, kill Governor Noem’s foster-voucher plan one more time, for good.


  1. Bill Poppen 2023-03-03 08:17

    I have a contention. Public schools are doing an excellent job of 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 already did this, but Republicans thought the state’s education department should control the data. 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.

    Now we have the latest Republican idea to fund private schools —vouchers. Vouchers do not improve the educational outcome. Vouchers do indirectly support private and religious schools. Perhaps that is the real purpose.

    Public dollars should fund public schools! Funneling tax dollars into religious schools violates the separation of church and state. Use our taxpayer dollars to strengthen our public schools and maintain the separation of church and state.

  2. All Mammal 2023-03-03 11:00

    This sure makes sense why Ms. Pourier’s heartfelt and needed summer study for investigating the over representation of Native children in SD’s foster system was bloody shot down twice like a dog in the ditch by the House. Ah ha! Because they’re all in on the scheme with the governor getting rich off ripping Native kids away from their families. Sick. They are not only racist scabs, they are also exploiting vulnerable lilluns in order to funnel tax money meant for public education into the church. This curls my hair. Ms. Pourier had the most well thought-out proposal this entire session and wasn’t even asking much. Our entire state would have altruistically done something finally for our impoverished sons and daughters. But race and greed prevails 200 yrs and going strong.

  3. Marie 2023-03-03 11:02

    Private School Vouchers–Educational Savings Accounts–Tax Credit Scholarships???
    All divert funds from public education in SD and across the U.S.

    1/3/2023 Alternet
    School Vouchers Have Been a Disaster—Now Advocates Are Trying to Rename Them
    Peter Greene – January 3, 2023

  4. CK 2023-03-03 14:24

    And there’s the meat of it, Mr. Poppen. Private and religious schools have their own rules. They don’t have to accomodate everyone like public schools do, nor are they evaluated like public schools are.

    And who ends up with the money in the end is important. In SD, the Catholic school teachers I know don’t make what a public school teacher makes.

  5. O 2023-03-03 14:47

    CK is on the right track here: follow the money. This proposal is about getting more money into the hands of private schools. Private schools cannot stay afloat themselves and are becoming a drain on their religious backers, so are looking for a government handout. They cannot succeed in the open market so in true GOP fashion, let the subsidies flow!

  6. Arlo Blundt 2023-03-03 15:48

    Bill Poppens comment is right on target. Vouchers and other political manipulation aimed at our public schools are, more often than not, destructive of a good education for all students.

  7. e platypus onion 2023-03-03 16:00

    South Duhkota’s constitution used to be quite specific, no public dunds for any schools except free public schools. Voucher’s from insurance companies are still paid for with public tax monies to insurance companies.

  8. Jake 2023-03-03 16:03

    This is just further evidence of the NEW Republican mind-set when it comes to serving the people of any state or nation (or the smallest locality of gov’t). Look to how it makes YOU as a Representative of the people stand out more than the rest (ego), then if YOU can’t benefit from it-make sure your friends that support you think thusly, and above all, any $$$ that change hands come from the least powerful and able to complain and go to those wealthy enough to further your career as a representative!

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