Some Question Rapid City Vote On Grant For English Learners

RAPID CITY, S.D. (AP) — Some parents and teachers in Rapid City have been questioning why school board leaders decided not to apply for a $30,000 grant that would help immigrant students learn to speak English.

One school board representative said that if the district accepted the federal grant, it would give the green light for more immigrants to move to Rapid City, the Rapid City Journal reported.

Without explanation, the Rapid City Area Schools Board of Education voted 5-2 on Aug. 9 not to seek the Title III Immigrant Grant, which is based on the number of immigrant students in a community. Rapid City is the only school district in the state that's eligible to qualify for the funds, the newspaper reported.

The grant would have gone toward teaching 22 current students who have lived in the United States for less than three years how to speak English conversationally.

Fred Meyer, a ninth-grade world history and geography teacher at Stevens High School, emailed each board member to question why they would turn down the funding opportunity, as the district is losing enrollment and revenue.

Board 1st Vice President Gabe Doney told Meyer in an email that by accepting the grant, the school district was implicitly giving the green light for more immigrants to move to Rapid City. He made similar comments to the Journal, saying that accepting a federal grant pertaining to immigration “could create a bigger problem down the road.”

“Next year is it going to be 100 (students), or 300? Do we really want that in Rapid City? $30,000 could turn into $1 million,” Doney told the Journal. He said one concern is whether immigrant students would be up to date on required vaccinations.

Doney said board members asked the superintendent find the $30,000 elsewhere in the budget to help the students learn English.

Meyer said he's concerned that the decision makes the school system seem unsupportive of the immigrant community.

“We have people that come from all over that work at our businesses, who are professors at School of Mines, green card holders, et cetera. We are reliant on immigrants and they should be welcomed. This sends the wrong message,” he said.