Over the last week, many schools across South Dakota resumed classes – both in-person and online. This marks the beginning of a sense of normalcy many of our kids are experiencing for the first time in several months.
Although there’s nothing normal about wearing masks or attending classes virtually, this is our reality for the time being and thankfully our students and teachers are making the best of it. Our kids are just thankful to see their friends and teachers.
Leading up to the start of the school year, I made it a point to visit several schools across the state of South Dakota. As a member of the House Education and Labor Committee, hearing from our teachers firsthand allows me to better do my job and bring back a “boots on the ground” perspective to my Congressional colleagues.
Last week, I visited Meadowbrook Elementary in Rapid City. Rapid City schools are kicking off the year with a unique in-person paired with virtual learning approach. This pandemic has forced everyone to become more innovative and collaborative – Meadowbrook’s teachers are no exception. The teachers there are teaming up to prepare lesson plans and share recorded materials, each is focused on a different subject to share the workload and ensure students aren’t receiving repeat lessons. Regardless of how one feels about decisions being made by individual school boards and administrators, it is clear that South Dakota is blessed with hard-working and dedicated teachers who are trying to make the best of a difficult situation.
I’m encouraged that schools in South Dakota are taking the necessary steps to protect our kids and our teachers. But there’s more to be done. As Congress continues to debate an additional COVID-19 relief package specifically for our schools, I’ve been hearing from teachers in South Dakota that are buying their own personal protective equipment (PPE).
Under normal circumstances, teachers often cover some classroom costs out of pocket. Add a pandemic into the mix and there’s bound to be additional costs for our educators. Currently, teachers can deduct up to $250 of supplementary classroom materials and equipment on their tax filing. PPE costs are not listed as eligible for this deduction. Which is why this week, Senator Tillis and I urged Secretary Mnuchin to allow purchases made for COVID-19 prevention be a deductible expense. I’m confident this easy fix can be made for our teachers.
I’m headed to Brookings to tour SDSU and also up to Watertown to visit with Lake Area Tech on Friday. I’ll continue to bring South Dakota’s message of personal responsibility and unique innovation back to Washington.