As governor of South Dakota, Kristi Noem is doing her best to keep the government – especially the federal government – out of schools.
In an address at a July Heritage Foundation event, the first-term governor spoke of the importance of training and empowering local education decision-makers to prevent government overreach.
She’s discovered that many school board members are not aware of the authority they have in their role. New school board members are often told by an administrator, “This is how we’ve always done it. These are the experts in the field.”
With that in mind, “empowering those school board members is incredibly important,” said Noem, who began offering board training as one of her first moves after being elected governor in 2018.
It also had been important to let school board members know they don’t have to accept federal funds, she says. “The federal government is very quick to dictate to our school districts by using money as an incentive.”
Noem recounted how the Biden administration recently warned her state that “if we didn’t allow boys to play in girls’ sports, they were going to take lunch money away from our school kids.”
“They’re pushing their activist agenda so hard they’re willing to create an unfair situation for women and take food away from children,” she said. “It’s shocking to me that they think that works politically or even in day-to-day life, but that’s how extreme the left is right now.”
Two years ago, Noem pushed civics education, especially in high schools, but lawmakers killed the initiative because they thought it wasn’t necessary. “Now look,” she said to event host Dr. Kevin Roberts, Heritage Foundation president, in a discussion following Noem’s address. “Just two years later, overwhelmingly what is sweeping across the country is the need for more civics and history in our classrooms.”
Being proactive about such problems before they are a crisis is incredibly important, “and we shouldn’t have to argue with ourselves or people who should know better about the importance of dealing with them early, rather than waiting until it’s already gone out of our classrooms,” Noem said.
And governors have a crucial, role, too. “Governors have incredible ability to make a difference right at home,” Noem told Roberts.
The agenda of the liberal left is “a threat to our way of life,” she said. “They’re threatening the foundational freedom that our Founders gave us, that we have worked for so many years to try to protect and preserve for our kids and our grandkids.”
Looking at South Dakota and across the country, Noem said, she believed people were “desperate for hope.”
“What we can do each and every day is get up and give them some perspective of our history, why our Constitution was important, how we make our decisions today based on it – and what that truly does mean for families to live successfully.”