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Make your vote count for

South Dakota children.


That all children have access to high-quality early learning experiences and environments to create a solid foundation for lifelong success.


Why YOU should care


The return on investment ranges from $5 and $16 dollars depending on situation or circumstance and environment of the child. This gain realized in less remedial/special education costs, improved graduation rates and employment opportunities, reduced incarceration rates, and more healthy life choices.


Nationwide, regardless of party, voters overwhelmingly (55%) say high-quality, affordable child care for families with young children is an essential service—just like healthcare and education.


80% of mothers in SD are working outside of the home. Available child care is a must to keep these mothers and fathers in the SD workforce and continue to add to positive economic development growth.


About 17% of children in SD are food insecure (at risk of not having enough to eat). High-quality early learning environments can ensure up to 3 meals a day, 5 days a week. Early learning settings can often help families get connected to other resources to help increase resource stability.


31,425 children (15%) under age 18 live in poverty in South Dakota. Among American Indian children, 60% live in poverty. Families living in poverty or in low-income households experience many obstacles and face challenges raising a family. Families must have resources to meet their basic needs for food, health care, jobs that pay a living wage, safe affordable housing, home visiting and parenting education services, and much more.

2022 Early Childhood Education Electoral Advocacy Toolkit

This November, South Dakota voters will elect candidates for important public offices at the national, state, and local levels. Those elected will be positioned to determine public policy that will affect the development and well-being of South Dakota’s babies, young children, and families.

The 2022 election provides an opportunity for policymakers to make bold progress on key issues that all children need to thrive: healthy beginnings, supported families, and early learning.

The COVID-19 crisis has had a devastating impact on many of the support systems for South Dakota’s youngest children and families from child care, to home visiting, to health care. Those elected in November must strengthen the state’s early childhood system to ensure that policies, programs, and resources best promote children’s healthy development, early learning, and future success in school and in life.


By supporting our youngest children to fulfill their potential, we create a framework for improved outcomes in health, education, and economic well-being for everyone in South Dakota. The stakes are high. The opportunity, in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis, is for our elected leaders to build a better early childhood system to ensure that all children have what they need to reach their full potential. Your vote matters.

The children of South Dakota are counting on you to be their champion!


What's at Stake in this Election?

Healthy Development:

The first 3 years of life represent the most rapid period of brain development, setting the stage for all future learning and life success.1  Supporting the healthy development of young children, beginning even before birth and the physical and mental health of their parents, increases opportunities for children to thrive and succeed.


Supported Families:

Young children develop in the context of their families. All families benefit from supports to be the best parents they can be for their children. Families living in poverty or in low-income households experience many obstacles and face challenges raising a family. Families must have resources to meet their basic needs for food, health care, jobs that pay a living wage, safe affordable housing, home visiting and parenting education services, and much more.  Child care is an essential support for parents to be able to work.  This increases family economic security while also providing children with access to high-quality early learning opportunities.


Educational Success:

Research shows that access to high-quality early learning is one of the most reliable ways to enhance future student achievement.2  A young child’s brain development in the first few years lays the foundation for all future development (e.g., school readiness and success). Children who attend high-quality early education programs enter school ready to succeed (i.e., academically, socially, and emotionally). They are more likely to read by third grade, graduate high school, attend college, and obtain employment, and less likely to need behavioral interventions or become involved in the criminal justice system.


Economic Prosperity:

Economic growth depends on smart investments. Investing in high-quality early care and learning results in a 13% return on investment,3 and reduces taxpayer expenses for remedial education, health care, and other societal problems (i.e. increased numbers of individuals with prison terms). In South Dakota, more than 52,175 children under age six (74%) live in families where all parents work.4  The child care industry in South Dakota contributes $279 million/year to the state’s economy. This includes revenue from both center-based care and home-based care.5   When families do not have the child care they need, parents’ work productivity falls, resulting in costs to parents, their employers, and, ultimately, taxpayers.


Every Child’s Potential:

Policymakers have an opportunity to ensure that all children grow up in a family and community where each child can reach his or her potential. For many children, child care is their early learning program. Parents depend on child care to work and children depend on it to grow and thrive, which impacts their future potential to contribute to South Dakota’s economy. We must ensure that all children have access to a sound basic education starting in early childhood, with equitable opportunities to achieve their full potential regardless of their 


How are Young Children & Families in South Dakota Doing?

Prior to COVID-19, many families with young children faced numerous barriers, including the high cost of child care, lack of physical and mental health care, limited family support services, and economic/food insecurity. We know that the pandemic has exacerbated many of these existing challenges, impacting even more children and families in South Dakota.


Here’s a look at how our state’s youngest children and their families are doing as the nation enters the 3rd year of the public health pandemic:


South Dakota is home to 35,215young children under age 3. Another 37,717 children are between ages 3-5.6 


33,852 children (16.1%) under age 18 live in poverty. Among American Indian children, 56% live in poverty.7  


79.4% of mothers with children under age 6 are working.8


4,185 children (5.2%) under age 18 have no health insurance, which includes 3,950 children under age 6.9 


6.9% of babies are born at a low birth-weight10 (which puts them at developmental risk).


South Dakota’s infant mortality rate is 6.3 per 1,000 live births, which is above the national average of 5.8 infant deaths per 1,000 live births.11 


Home visiting programs serve 1.5% of eligible families with children under age 6.12


Child care is expensive. The annual cost of one year of center-based and large group family child care homes for infants and toddlers in South Dakota ranges from $8,320 in urban areas to $6,240 in rural areas – with the annual cost of child care in Minnehaha and Lincoln counties exceeding the state average at $8,736.13 These costs are only slightly below the South Dakota in-state cost for public college tuition.14  


Child care workers in South Dakota earn an average of $11.41 per hour (about $23,720 annually),15  which leads many to rely on some form of public assistance.


About 17% of children in South Dakota are food insecure (at risk for not having enough to eat).17

With COVID, Census Bureau Weekly Household data shows families with children in South Dakota are struggling:


41% of families with children are struggling to pay bills.


Over 8% of families with children report food insecurity (sometimes or often not having enough to eat).


14.8% of families with children who are living in rented homes are behind in their rent payments.


30.3% of families with children who are living in rented homes are not confident about being able to make next month's rent payment.


Early Learner SD Policy Priorities


That all children have access to high-quality early learning experiences and environments to create a solid foundation for lifelong success.

  • Equitable access to high-quality, affordable, child care (to enable parents to earn and children to learn)

  • School readiness for all South Dakota children

  • Support parents as a child’s first teacher

  • Improve child and family well-being (access to health care and home-visiting programs that support parents, infants, and young children to grow and thrive)

  • Strategies to build a network of high-quality early childhood educators in center-based and home-based child care programs that increase communication and access to resources for providers in SD

  • Pathways to increase training and certification offerings for early learning professionals at an affordable rate


Voters Support Early Childhood Policies

Nationwide, voters have shown their support for early learning. Regardless of party, voters overwhelmingly (70%) say taking action to ensure working families have access to affordable, high-quality, child care and early learning programs should be a priority this year.

For more information on this poll, see the First Five Years Fund Voter Demand: FFYF's Bipartisan Polling.


Who's on the Ballot in South Dakota

The election this November offers voters a chance to select candidates to represent them at the national, state and local level. Here’s a look at all of the offices on the ballot in South Dakota this year:


  • 1 seat in the U.S. Senate

  • 1 seat in the U.S. House of Representatives

  • 35 seats in the South Dakota Senate

  • 70 seats in the South Dakota House of Representatives

  • Public Utilities Commissioner

  • Dozens of others are also on the ballot such as County Treasurer, States Attorney, County Coroner, County Commissioners, and others.

For a list of candidates for 2022 see:

Will these candidates speak up for early learners? Ask those individuals running for office if they will stand up for, and support young children and families!


Key Election Dates and Information

This year’s election will take place on June 7, 2022 (the voter registration deadline is May 23, 2022). South Dakota's General Election will take place on Tuesday, November 8, 2022. Below are a few key things to know and do in order to make sure your vote counts for children in November.

Are you registered to vote?

Information about registering to vote or updating your voter registration.

Once you are registered to vote, find out where to vote in-person.

Instructions about how to vote by mail (absentee).

Helpful suggestions from the U.S. Postal Service to ensure your ballot is received on time.

Coronavirus (COVID-19) election updates and information.

General information posted about SD elections by the Secretary of State.

Find current members of your State Legislature


Key Information and Dates to Remember

All voters who appear at a polling place must show proof of identification (SDCL12-18-6.1). Approved forms of photo identification include:


South Dakota driver’s license or non-driver ID card


U.S. government photo ID (passport is acceptable)


U.S. Armed Forces ID


Current student photo identification card from a South Dakota high school or South Dakota accredited institution of higher education


Tribal photo ID


If you do not have a photo ID, you can sign a personal identification affidavit, and will still be allowed to vote a regular ballot.

Sept. 23, 2022: Absentee voting begins.


Registered voters can vote in-person once absentee voting begins at their County Auditor’s office by bringing along a valid photo identification card (ID). If a voter does not have a photo ID, they must be given the option to sign a personal identification affidavit and vote a regular ballot.

Oct. 24, 2022: Deadline to register to vote.

Nov. 7, 2020: Deadline to request an
absentee ballot.

You may apply for an absentee ballot before 5:00pm the day before the election for any or all general, primary, municipal, school, or any other elections conducted in this calendar year with one request. Additional information on absentee voting is available here.

ELECTION DAY: NOVEMBER 8, 2022 (Polling places are open from 7:00am to 7:00pm)


Questions for Candidates

There are many ways you can connect with candidates to learn more about their positions on the issues that matter most to you. Many candidates are still walking their districts going door-to-door to meet voters. You can also connect with candidates at a campaign event. Whether it’s at a campaign event such as a town hall or candidate forum (virtual or otherwise), on social media, or by email. Your engagement makes a difference and can help inform them about the issues impacting young children and families. 


You can visit a candidate’s website and social media profiles to learn more about them, find out when they’re holding events (either in-person or virtual), and get information about how to contact them. These individuals are running for public office, which means to effectively represent people, they need to hear from people!

  • South Dakota’s economic recovery depends on working parents. And, working parents need child care.  What will you do to expand access to child care for South Dakota’s working families?

  • Child care is a work support for parents. But, it’s also an early learning setting for young children.  What will you do to help promote high-quality child care and promote healthy development for South Dakota’s young children? 

  • In South Dakota, child care providers are not required to be registered with the state until 13 children are in care. Particularly with COVID-19, there is a need to reach out to all home-based providers to see if they need support or health & safety supplies. Will you support requiring home-based providers who care for 12 or fewer children to join a state list so that providers can be contacted and have access to helpful supports? 

  • What actions will you take to ensure that children birth to five have access to high-quality early learning programs in every community in South Dakota?

  • Many working families can’t afford child care, which can cost more than a home mortgage payment or public college tuition. What will you do to make sure low-income working families can access child care assistance?

  • Parents are a child’s first teacher. What ideas do you have to support parents that will help promote the healthy development of South Dakota children?

  • What actions will you take to ensure that all young children have equitable opportunities to thrive and reach their potential in school and in life, regardless of race, income, or zip code?

With so many lawmakers up for election in 2022, advocates in South Dakota have countless opportunities to educate candidates and turn them into champions who will make the needs of young children and families their priority. Once elected, they will make critical decisions that impact families and can help ensure that all children have what they need for a strong start in life. Advocates like you play a critical role in ensuring that all candidates have the information they need to make these decisions, and to elevate the discussion of these issues among all of the candidates, the media, and other voters.

There are many ways you can call on 2020 candidates to make young children and families a priority, including:​​


Email candidates’ campaigns to provide them with resources as they make decisions about policy priorities.


Engage candidates directly by attending local events (or virtual events) and ask questions at candidate forums.


Post on social media to educate candidates and ask them where they stand on the policies and investments that young children and families need. Post regularly and tag your local and state candidates! (Sample posts here)


Submit a letter to the editor to your state and/or local media outlet or write a blog or newsletter post highlighting the policies and investments needed for young children in your community.


Share this toolkit and spread the word in your community. Call on your friends, family, and colleagues to join you in being a big voice for young children this year.

Talk with your friends and neighbors about the importance of making young children and families a priority.


Sample Social Media Posts

Social media can be a great way to share information about the issues that matter to you with your own personal network, and it’s also a great way to communicate directly with candidates. You can typically find links to candidates’ Twitter and Facebook pages on their campaign website, or you can search for their profiles on each platform. Below are some samples messages you can post or use to help you craft your own. 

Call on your community to get involved:


Our elected officials make critical decisions that impact families and can help ensure that all children have what they need for a strong start in life. Help make sure #Election2020 candidates make young children a top priority:


Whether at a virtual townhall, during a debate, or on social media, each of us can educate all candidates to turn them into champions for young children. Get info to help make your vote count for South Dakota’s youngest citizens:


As advocates, we play a critical role by ensuring that all candidates have the information they need to make crucial decisions that will impact families. Join in the momentum:

Tell candidates that young children and families should be their top priority:


#Election2020 brings into focus voters’ priorities and sets the agenda for all of the policymakers on the ballot. Will children and families be at the top of your list? #SoDakKIDSMATTER [INSERT CANDIDATE HANDLES]


Families in SD need #paidleave, #childcare, and #healthcare to build a strong foundation for our babies. Vote in 2020 and make kids’ potential our priority. #SoDakKIDSMATTER [INSERT CANDIDATE HANDLES] 


As a [INSERT PROFESSIONAL TITLE, ORGANIZATIONAL EXPERTISE, OR PERSONAL CONNECTION TO ISSUE], I know the importance of investing in the early years. If elected, how would you make every child’s potential your priority? #SoDakKIDSMATTER [INSERT CANDIDATE HANDLES]


The decisions policymakers make now will help determine if SD’s #babies have a strong foundation for success, or whether that future will be undermined by the effects of #COVID19.
How will you ensure their families are supported through this crisis? #SoDakKIDSMATTER

Sample Social Media Images

To download these post images, click on each image. They will open into a new browser window. Right click and Save As or download to your computer. When posting these images to Twitter or Facebook, also supply the post with wording.

Sample Social Image Post Wording:


Get information to help make your vote count for South Dakota’s youngest citizens:    #SoDakKIDSMATTER


Help make sure #Election2020 candidates make young children a top priority:     #SoDakKIDSMATTER


Get information to help make your vote count for South Dakota’s youngest citizens:    #SoDakKIDSMATTER

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1  Harvard University Center on the Developing Child, Brain Architecture.
2  Dana Charles McCoy, Hirokazu Yoshikawa, Kathleen M. Ziol-Guest, Greg J. Duncan, Holly S. Schindler, Katherine Magnuson, Rui Yang, Andrew Koepp, Jack P. Shonkoff, Impacts of Early Childhood Education on Medium- and Long-Term Educational Outcomes, 2017.
3  García, Jorge Luis, James J. Heckman, Duncan Ermini Leaf, and María José Prados. “The Life-cycle Benefits of an Influential Early Childhood Program.” University of Chicago, 2016.
Heckman, J.J., Moon, S.H., Pinto, R., Savelyex, P., & Yavitz, A. (2010). “The Rate of Return to the HIghScope Perry Preschool Program.” Journal of Public Economics 94(1-2), 114-28.
Karoly, L.A., Greenwood, P.W., Everingham, S.S., Hoube, J., Kilburn, Mr.R., Rydell et al. (1998) Investing in our Children: What We Know and Don’t Know About the Costs and Benefits of Early Childhood Interventions. Santa Monica, Cal.:RAND Corporation.
Reynolds, A.J., Temple, J.A., Robertson, D.L., & Mann, E.A. (2002). “Age 21 Cost-Benefit Analysis of the Title 1 Chicago Child-Parent Centers.” Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis 4(24), 267-303.
Schweinhart, L.J., Montie, J. Xiang, Z., Barnett, W.S., Belfield, C.R., & Nores, M. (20050. Lifetime Effects: The High/Scope Perry Preschool Study Through Age 40. Ypsilanti, Mich.: High-Scope Press
4  U.S. Census Bureau, Table B23008, Age of Own Children Under 18 Years in Families and Subfamilies by Living Arrangements by Employment Status of Parents, 2019 American Community Survey 1 Year Estimates.
5  Committee for Economic Development, Child Care in State Economies: 2019 Update, 2019.
6  U.S. Census Bureau, Table B09001, Population Under Age 18. 2019 American Community Survey, 1 Year Estimates.
7  U.S. Census Bureau, Table 17024 and Table 17001 (B,C,D,E,H,I), Kids Count SD. 2018 American Community Survey.
8  U.S. Census Bureau, Table S2301, Employment Status, 2019 American Community Survey 1 Year Estimates.
9  U.S. Census Bureau, Table B27001, Health Insurance Coverage Status by Sex and Age, 2019 American Community Survey 1 Year Estimates.
10  Low birthweight babies, CDC National Center for Health Statistics. Kids Count SD.
11  America’s Health Rankings, United Health Foundation, 2019.
12  2018 Home Visiting Yearbook, National Home Visiting Resource Center, 2018.
13  South Dakota Child Care Workforce and Market Rate Report, August 2019. SD Department of Social Services Division of Child Care Services.
14  U.S. College Board, 2019-20 published in-state tuition and fees at public four-year institutions by state.
15  U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Child Care Worker Occupational Wages, May 2019.
17  Feeding America, Child Food Insecurity by State.!/vizhome/MaptheMealGap-ChildFoodInsecurity/ChildFoodInsecurity and Projected Rates for 2020 with COVID-19 Impact.
18  U.S. Census Bureau, Weekly Household Pulse Survey, Weeks 10-14 (July 2 – September 14, 2020).


Have more questions?

We would love to speak with you about the importance of Early Learning.

Not sure what we are all about?

Check out more information on our Campaign Page and learn how we are helping Early Learners.

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