South Dakota children who are deaf and hard of hearing are one step closer to getting more support for educational services they need after the Senate passed a bill Monday, pushing it past its last hurdle to get to Gov. Kristi Noem’s desk.

House Bill 1228 is meant to better track the language and literacy development milestones of all children who are deaf and hard of hearing across the state. 

It would require the state to expand its current tracking range from children ages birth to five to children from birth through age 18 or until age 21 if the child receives special education services. The bill passed without debate and with a unanimous do pass vote.

It passed the House in February. 

“It is wonderful that we are making an impact on deaf and hard of hearing students and their ability to succeed,” said Rep. Erin Healy, D- Minnehaha, after session ended for the day Monday. “By counting all students, the state can evaluate whether there’s enough support for students right now and the data collection can also be used to identify the gaps in learning, where they’re happening and how we can address those problems.”

Healy is the primary sponsor on the bill. If Noem signs it, the bill will alter the state’s use of its Language Equity and Acquisition for Deaf Kids law passed in 2018, one of only a handful Lead-K laws passed nationwide.

“When it hit the Senate (education) committee, we amended the bill so that we had the support of the (South Dakota) Department Education,” Healy said. “I’m happy we can all move forward with this bill, and that we’re all happy with it in the end.