Tech school leadership to remain the same


Susan Smith-Community News Service

The Senate voted to override a veto by Gov. Mike Rounds of a new governance plan for the state’s technical schools. The House was five votes short of overriding his veto and the bill failed.

Senate Bill 95 created a State Board of Technical Institutes and transferred authority over the schools from the Department of Education to the new board. Rounds argued in his veto message that HB 95 put technical schools in serious jeopardy. The bill was unconstitutional, he said, and created a new layer of government. The current system operates well, the way it was intended, he said, with local control. The additional bureaucracy would drain state resources. He said until the new board was in place, a state law would prevent the schools from awarding degrees.

Rep. Jeff Haverly, R-Rapid City, argued that tech schools already are in jeopardy. Currently, they are run by the school board in their districts. That has caused them to be overlooked and denied needed funding. It also hampers their ability to adopt new programs, Haverly said.

All technical schools are accredited through the United States Department of Education so they could award degrees whether or not a board was appointed, Haverly said. The law Rounds cited states that an approved postsecondary vocational school may award a degree in applied sciences. A state board must make rules for the approval of programs and their criteria.

Another of Rounds’ objections was based on public statements made by Board of Regents members that the entity would sue if SB 95 became law. The state constitution gives the Board of Regents authority over all postsecondary institutions. If that’s the case, Haverly said, the current system is unconstitutional.

Haverly argued that technical schools need to be governed so that needs can be more easily addressed.

“Technical institutes play a huge role in work-force development,” he said.

A new board could mean a payout of $500,000 in salaries, Rep. Thomas Hills, R-Spearfish, said. He estimated the board would need an executive director, business director and a lawyer at the very least, and those people would all likely make $100,000 per year.

Software would have to be purchased to keep track of student records. The system used by the Regents cost $2 million, Hills said.

“These are not incidental changes,” he said. “These are not incidental expenses.”

The Senate voted 28-6 to override that veto. The House voted 42-26 to sustain it.