By Rep. Kristi Noem
It’s hard to believe the summer months have already come and gone. This week, the Noem family, like many families across South Dakota, sent two of our kids off to their first day of school. However, this year started a little sooner and a little different than years past. Earlier this month Bryon and I sent our oldest, Kassidy, off to the University of Sioux Falls for her freshman year.
As a member of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, and as a mother of three children who have attended public schools, education is an issue that is personal to me. The needs of our rural schools here in South Dakota are much different than the needs of urban schools in places like New York and California, which is why a one-size-fits-all approach will not work for our students. We need to empower teachers and encourage innovation at the local level to meet the needs of each individual district.
There are many unique factors facing South Dakota school districts. Although the tenets of No Child Left Behind had good intentions of raising standards and performance, the stringent guidelines and qualifications are often unworkable for South Dakota students and teachers.
Higher education is also an important and crucial element of our society. I left college in my early twenties to help run our family’s farm after my father was killed in an accident. Completing my degree was something I always wanted to do, so I began taking classes online and recently graduated from South Dakota State University. Now that I have my college degree, I am even more thankful for the opportunities offered to our students – both traditional and non-traditional. However, attending college is also a big financial undertaking.
In 2007 Congress passed a temporary reduction in interest rates for student loans, from 6.8 percent to 3.4 percent. This temporary reduction was scheduled to expire on July 1, 2012. With the cost of college on the rise and many recent graduates struggling to find jobs, I supported legislation that was recently signed into law that will keep these student loan interest rates at a lower rate for another year.
South Dakota has a long history of having great teachers and successful students. Just this week, the South Dakota Department of Education announced that South Dakota students’ average ACT score is still above the national average. I look forward to continued conversations with our state’s teachers, administrators, parents and students about how we can improve our education system and encourage students to succeed.
Rep. Kristi Noem is South Dakota’s lone U.S. Representative, elected in November 2010. She serves on the Agriculture, Education and Workforce and Natural Resources Committees.