South Dakota

South Dakota lawmakers kill bill limiting access to school activities for homeschooled children

The Senate Education Committee voted Thursday to throw out a bill that would have allowed homeschool students to only attend school activities based on where they live, through their home district or home visiting centers, rather than through open district enrollment.

The introduction of Senate Bill 57 this year follows the passage of Senate Bill 177 in 2021, which expands access to district activities for students in alternative education or home schooling.

More:Educators are blaming Gov. Kristi Noem’s office for a push to relax homeschooling rules

Lawmakers on Thursday heard support for the bill from sponsor Senator Ryan Maher, an Isabel Republican, as well as lobbyists from the South Dakota school board, the South Dakota Associated School Boards, the South Dakota High School Activities Association, the big school group and the South Dakota Education Association.

Maher said local school boards in Bison and Buffalo have raised questions about whether homeschool students can attend their local districts if the homeschool student does not live within the district boundaries, or whether they can openly enroll in the district to participate in activities.

What happened in the end was that there were two conflicting memoranda or opinions about what to do in these cases, Maher said of SB 177.

Rob Monson, with SASD, for example, said his son in Parkston couldn’t drive 10 miles outside of his county just to exercise somewhere else, and said it would be unfair for homeschool students to do so if his son couldn’t could.

More:Which education laws were passed by the legislature in this session?

And at its last regular school board meeting, the Sioux Falls School District and board showed support for the law because it clarified that alternative education students could only participate in activities at their home visiting centers. The district’s support was met with opposition from a local parent who is a member of the local chapter of Moms for Liberty during the meeting’s public comment period.

Opponents of the bill included several parents of homeschoolers, two homeschoolers, a member of the Bison school board, the superintendent of James Valley Christian School, lobbyists from the South Dakota Catholic Conference, Concerned Women for America, Families for Alternative Instruction Rights and Family Heritage Alliance Action and Secretary of Education Joe Graves.

Graves said the DOE opposes the bill because one of the goals of education is to maximize opportunity for students, and for some this bill would be an obstacle.

Ultimately, Senator Tom Pischke, a Dell Rapids Republican, moved to delay the bill until the 41st Legislative Day, effectively killing it. His motion was supported by Sen. Shawn Bordeaux, a Mission Democrat.

The vote to abolish the bill passed 5-2.

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