The South Dakota postsecondary vocational education system was conceived through the 1963 Vocational Education Act and subsequent state legislation. WDT is one of four technical institutes in South Dakota, it operates under a dual governance system. Tuition and state fees, program approval, and bonding issues are decided by the South Dakota Board of Education. Policy, hiring, local fees, and operations are governed by the Rapid City Area Schools Board of Education, the same board that governs the K-12 district in Rapid City. The WDT President reports to the local School Board and to the Superintendent of the Rapid City Area School District.
The state Board of Education members are appointed by the Governor. Local board members are elected by the citizens of Rapid City. Agendas and minutes of both local and state board meetings are available for public review (local minutes and agendas; state minutes and agendas), and all meetings are open to the public. In addition to its regularly scheduled meetings that include WDT business, the local board holds quarterly meetings on the WDT campus.