Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Special funding proposal for Douglas School District advances


Ellsworth Air Force Base in the Black Hills anticipates one of the service’s biggest developments - the nuclear-capable B-21 bomber. The new fleet will bring in thousands of additional service members and their families. That has local leaders talking about how to meet their needs.

Ellsworth is housed in Box Elder, a Rapid City suburb, that anticipates as many as 1,500 new students in the next 15 years. That’s according to projections from the local school district.

As a result, Rapid City Republican Sen. Helene Duhamel said it’s time for the state to reinvest in the military. She’s authored a proposal to fund the developments for the district at a cost of $15 million.

"It is critical to our state’s economy with an economic impact of $480 million each year by the time this B-21 gets going," Duhamel said. "We can never rest on our laurels, we must remain vigilant, and South Dakota needs to do its part to support the military.”

The Douglas School District which serves the area, is already approaching capacity. Superintendent Kevin Case said with that in mind, an investment in new facilities would have a direct impact on the quality of education.

“Our existing elementary schools are full," Case said. "So, once students start arriving, we’ll be spending money on mobile units to house students in, which we don’t believe is the best learning experience. We’re bringing the state-of-the-art B-21 bomber to Ellsworth AFB, and we believe our families deserve to be educated in buildings.”

However, it wasn’t a clean-cut debate. Democratic Sen. Shawn Bordeaux who’s from Mission, said the board is being inconsistent with its appropriations.

“I asked for a measly $50,000 here to support tribal colleges – who as I testified, lose a lot of money to non-Native Americans who attend school there – and the committee couldn’t even see supporting me for $50,000," Bordeaux said. "So, for that reason I’ll be opposing this.”

After discussion, the bill advanced to the joint appropriations committee on a 5-2 vote.

C.J. Keene is a Rapid City-based journalist covering the legal system, education, and culture