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Come full circle: To return to the original position or state of affairs. – The Free Dictionary

Elden Samp, a lifelong educator in South Dakota, was a leading advocate for vocational education. When he stepped down from the South Dakota Board of Vocational Education, he told me that those programs were vital to the state because they filled a need not addressed by the four-year colleges.

I am paraphrasing Elden, of Flandreau, who was also a member of the South Dakota Bandmasters Hall of Fame, because the conversation took place more than 30 years ago.

South Dakota, with the passage of SB65 this legislative session, has now come full circle in how it governs vocational education.

Gov. Bill Janklow decided in 1985 that the state Board of Vocational Education should be dissolved and its duties assumed by the South Dakota Board of Education, which governed K-12 education. So, for more than three decades, the state Board of Education dealt with curriculum and other issues relating to the state’s 150 school districts and also budget and curriculum issues of the state’s four technical schools. OK at the time, it turned out not to be Janklow’s best idea. It brings to mind Samuel Johnson’s quote about dogs that could walk on their hind legs:

“It is not done well, but you are surprised to find it done at all.”

Now, because of SB65, the tech schools in Mitchell, Watertown, Rapid City and Sioux Falls will have their own board of governance and executive director.

As stated by Sen. Jim Bolin, a retired educator from Canton, “This was the right thing to do. The regents do not want the tech schools under them and the tech schools have a very different mission than the regental system. These institutions need to thrive.”

The $75,000 price tab is relatively moderate, said Sen. Joshua Klumb, of Mount Vernon, who described the new approach as “a massive improvement over the system we have had for the tech schools over the past few decades.”

Support for the change was nearly unanimous, with only two lawmakers voting “nay” and both are from Rapid City. Rep. Tim Goodwin said he thought oversight should be under the Board of Regents.

“To have another layer of government is unnecessary and expensive,” he said.

It is a reasonable but minority point of view. I asked Rolly Samp, a Sioux Falls attorney, what his dad, Elden, would have thought of SB65.

“He would have supported it,” Rolly said, because he believed vocational education needs and deserves its own voice.

March 15, 2017