In South Dakota, 1,267 children under the age of three are enrolled in Early Head Start programs, and 1,826 3-year-olds and 2,586 4-year olds are enrolled in Head Start programs. According to the U.S. Department of Education, nearly 3,000 students are enrolled in district operated preschool programs. Even though South Dakota does not have a state-run early childhood program, leaders are moving toward embracing quality standards and alignment between preschool and K-12 systems by aligning its Early Learning and Kindergarten Guidelines. Meanwhile, a pilot program in Rapid City is already producing promising results with participating children demonstrating gains in language skills. The average annual cost of center-based infant care in the state is $6,071.
- What state leaders are saying: While Gov. Dennis Daugaard, who is running for re-election would like the state to prioritize investments in existing K-12 education programs, the issue of early childhood education is becoming a cornerstone of the gubernatorial race’s Democratic primaries with Joe Lowe and Susan Wismer, the two Democrat candidates both vocally supporting early childhood programs. Meanwhile, Republican state Rep. Jacqueline Sly who is also a member of the state’s legislative planning committee named early learning as a top priority and said, “If children don’t have those experiences at home at a very early age…they get left behind.”
- What’s happening in the legislature: In 2013, Rep. Sly introduced a bill to fund a pre-k pilot program that provides computers to families that could then use them for early childhood programs.