It’s that time of year again. School is back in session, classrooms are full of students, and sports teams are taking the field. The beginning of a new school year is an important moment, not just for kids on their first day of kindergarten or seniors setting out for their final year. It’s a chance for all students to start fresh, work hard, and set and attain new goals. So, whether you’re trying to excel in class or going out for varsity – or both – I want to wish South Dakota’s students all the best for this school year.
The value of a quality education cannot be overestimated. Education helps us build up our talents, discover new interests, and ultimately work toward a bright future. I’m grateful for the South Dakota teachers who work hard to support students and challenge young South Dakotans to do better. Both of my parents were educators, and I grew up seeing firsthand teachers’ dedication to their students’ success. Of course, like every parent, my parents took a keen interest in ensuring their five kids got a good education and became well-rounded adults. Kimberley and I did the same for our two daughters.
In addition to academics, extracurriculars like music, clubs, and sports help students learn and put important life skills into action. It’s always a pleasure to meet student leaders from Future Farmers of America, the Junior Reserve Officers' Training Corps, and other student groups. As I travel across South Dakota, I also try to attend as many local sporting events around the state as I can. Playing football and basketball and running track for the Jones County Coyotes taught me valuable life lessons. And it’s great to see student athletes continuing the South Dakota spirit of competition with their towns supporting them and their teams. Sometimes I even get to meet some fellow tuba players in the band.
As the school year and sports seasons ramp up, though, inflation continues to strain family budgets. The price of groceries alone has increased 20 percent during the Biden administration. School supplies cost almost 24 percent more than they did two years ago. And sports registration fees and equipment can run in the hundreds of dollars. To help make youth sports more affordable for families, I introduced the PHIT Act, which would allow families to use pre-tax health savings accounts or flexible spending accounts to pay for youth sports registration and some of the gear their kids need to play. My bill is a small step to ensure more kids are able to play sports and enjoy the social and physical benefits of being active.
The beginning of the school year also has many students and their parents thinking about the future. Whether you’re thinking about entering the workforce, learning a trade, or pursuing a college degree, South Dakota’s schools do an excellent job preparing students for their next step. For South Dakotans who may be considering serving our country in the Armed Forces after high school, I have the opportunity as a U.S. senator to nominate South Dakotans to one of the multiple service academies. Information about the academy application process is available at thune.senate.gov or by calling any of my offices.
The beginning of a new school year is an exciting time. I encourage students to work hard, try new things, and set goals for the new year. And I’m certain that your parents, teachers, coaches, and communities will support you along the way.