Simplified: The Sioux Falls school board on Monday unanimously approved its legislative priorities for the upcoming 2023 session. The big takeaways? They want to change how school board elections happen, and pay special attention to juvenile justice and funding.

Why it matters

  • Education makes up about 50 percent of the state budget, which means lawmakers in Pierre spend a lot of time talking about legislation that impacts schools.
  • Sioux Falls schools – and, likely, others across the state – have juvenile justice reform as a top priority, something Board Member Cynthia Mickelson said she can't stress enough how important it is. The legislature had a summer study on this topic, and so there will very likely be more to come during the session.
  • The Sioux Falls School District also wants to see the state give districts the option for four-year terms for board members as a way to combine elections with the city and see an overall higher voter turnout.
"Our turnout would be five times, on average, greater than it is right now in elections (if combined with the city each time)," Business Manager Todd Vik said.

Tell me more about the legislative priorities

The three main ones are juvenile justice reform, election changes and overall funding for schools. Here's a quick breakdown:

  • With juvenile justice, the district wants to see the state put more money, better facilities and new programs to help kids who need diversion programs.
  • With elections, the district wants to be more efficient by switching to four-year terms so each school board election can run concurrent with a citywide election.
  • With funding, the district wants to change one word in the current law: "less" to "greater." That'd mean the state would increase education funding by either 3% or inflation, whichever is greater instead of the current law, which says the increase will be 3% or inflation, whichever is less.

What else will the district be watching in Pierre?

District officials want to see the dropout age stay at 18.

They'd also like to see the state expand early childhood education – something that has historically failed to gain traction among lawmakers.

The district would also like the state to increase flexibility in the dual-credit program, in which high schoolers can receive both high school and college credit in certain classes.

  • Right now, only juniors and seniors can take dual-credit classes, Vik said. The district would like to see that option extended to sophomores as well.

And, the last item on the district's list of priorities was a desire to see the state replace the statewide standardized "Smarter Balanced" test for 11th graders with the ACT.

What happens next?

The 2023 legislative session starts Jan. 10 in Pierre.