In another example of Executive Branch overreach, Governor Kristi Noem is using federal money to contravene the will of the Legislature and enact a pared-down version of her private-school vouchers plan for foster kids:
Gov. Kristi Noem is planning to use pandemic-era federal funds to make good on a program offering educational aid to foster families in South Dakota.
…Rather than the $5 million annual price tag on the Stronger Families Scholarship shot down by the legislature, the South Dakota Department of Education confirmed to Forum News Service that the department is making $500,000 available to subsidize private school tuition for foster children in the state during the upcoming school year [Jason Harward, “SD Gov. Noem Brings Back Foster Scholarship, Sidestepping Lawmakers with Federal Funds,” Mitchell Republic, 2023.05.23].
Governor Noem’s Senate Bill 100, copycatting the foster-voucher idea from ALEC, was another of her stunning Legislative failures during the 2023 Session. She and feckless prime sponsor Senator Al Novstrup (R-3/Aberdeen) failed to push the bill out of its first committee hearing, where the votes to kill it were all Republican.
But now the Governor is creating more waste and inefficiency by saying that, in addition to the hundreds of millions of dollars we spend to provide free and easily accessible education to foster kids and every other child in South Dakota, we need to throw federal dollars at a whole nother collection of publicly unaccountable and, in South Dakota, exclusively religious schools that will only serve a chosen few children.
Transferring federal pandemic relief dollars to prop up private schools three years after Governor Noem quit taking coronavirus seriously should come with peals of laughter at sheer hypocrisy. It also comes with strings:
For example, program rules make clear that these dollars must go directly to non-public schools. As a result, rather than reimbursing foster parents directly for a wide array of incurred costs, the funds will only be used to pay for private school tuition.
Another hurdle for using these specific funds is a requirement that these dollars go to private schools with “significant” portions of low-income students, potentially meaning foster children would only have their tuition subsidized if they attend certain private schools in South Dakota.
A complete set of rules for exactly how the $500,000 will be disbursed this coming school year was not made available to Forum News Service prior to the deadline for this story [Harward, 2023.05.23].
Why any of my public tax dollars should be used to subsidize anyone’s private religious school remains beyond me… as does why the South Dakota Legislature continues to permit Governor Noem to do things they told her she cannot do.