The Legislature isn't totally ignoring the needs of education and American Indians in South Dakota. Senate Bill 163 would restore state matching funds for Teach for America, the private non-profit that recruits dozens of young teachers for reservation schools in South Dakota. The Legislature pulled its support for Teach for America last session; SB 163 would put $500,000 back in the budget for the program.

House members from Indian Country—Republican Elizabeth May and Democrats Kevin Killer and Shawn Bordeaux—are all sponsors of SB 163. Everyone else in Pierre should support it. After my conversations with Mission-based TFA director James Curran and proud TFA alumna and Spring Creek teacher Morandi Hurst last summer, I am confident Teach for America deserves our investment.

SB 163 could use some amendment. The current language appears to have been hastily assembled, just to get a bill in the hopper in time for proper treatment later. Section 1 of the bill amends the existing statute authorizing TFA funding by editing out an older teacher-recruitment goal to make a more open-ended goal (remember, bills amending existing statute show existing language in normal text, stricken language with overstrikes, and inserted language with underlining):

Through the grant program, the state will partner with private contributors to fund an expansion of the Teach for America program in the state that will allow the number of teachers placed to grow from fifty-seven to one hundred by 2015 to meet the demand.

...but then leaves in place the outdated estimates of the demand:

The expansion will allow Teach for America to positively impact two-thirds of the Native American students on reservations in the state and more than half of the Native American students statewide, and to strengthen its efforts to improve the academic achievement of low-income, Native American students and to increase the educational opportunities afforded them.

If SB 163 is going to strike the numbers for teachers, it should also strike the numbers for students, lest someone read the bill to limit the number of American Indian students to be served.

In the next paragraph, SB 163 inserts where it should strike:

Funding through the grant program shall be provided to Teach for America over a period of four fiscal years beginning on July 1, 2012. Funding appropriated for the grant program pursuant to this Act shall be provided to Teach for America over a period of four fiscal years beginning on July 1, 2015.

The inserted text clearly supersedes the existing text; let's keep our statutes clean and strike the existing funding dates.

Those bill-writing errors are poor style; Senate Bill 163 is good substance. Pass it, and help Teach for America provide the teachers that our Department of Education says we cannot.