Monday, January 25, 2010

Voters may decide (deaf) school future

Voters may decide school future

Lawmakers led by Sen. Al Novstrup want to clear the legal path for possible closure of the state School for the Deaf.

Novstrup, R-Aberdeen, has filed a resolution that would put the issue to a statewide vote this November.

Specifically, the resolution proposes changing the South Dakota Constitution by removing the reference to the School for the Deaf from the section outlining the responsibilities of the state Board of Regents.

The regents govern the six state universities as well as the deaf school in Sioux Falls and the School for the Blind and Visually Handicapped in Aberdeen.

Last year, Gov. Mike Rounds proposed closing the deaf school and restructuring the delivery of services. He estimated the changes would have produced a savings of $2 million.

But a combination of opposition and federal stimulus funding put the issue on the back burner. In the background was the legal question of whether the school could be closed when it is still in the constitution.

The constitutional amendment proposed by Novstrup wouldn’t actually close the deaf school. It would remove the constitutional requirement and clearly open the way for the regents and the Legislature to do as they choose.

The resolution, SJR 1, is cosponsored by a broad crosssection of Republican and Democratic legislators. They include five of the seven Senate members and five of the nine House members on the Joint Committee Appropriations, which oversees state government’s budget.

Rep. Manny Steele, R-Sioux Falls, is the lead sponsor in the House.

Senators who signed onto the resolution as co-sponsors are Dan Ahlers, D-Dell Rapids; Julie Bartling, DBurke; Corey Brown, RGettysburg; and Jim Hundstad, D-Bath.

House co-sponsors are representatives Thomas Deadrick, R-Platte; Paul Dennert, D-Columbia; Charles Hoffman, R-Eureka; David Lust, R-Rapid City; Nick Moser, R-Yankton; Deb Peters, R-Hartford; Roger Solum, R-Watertown; Bill Van Gerpen, R-Tyndall; Dean Wink, R-Howes; and Susan Wismer, D-Britton.

A resolution doesn’t require the governor’s approval.