Committee concurs with Community school bill

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Committee concurs with Community school bill

A bill creating a new school system within existing school districts cleared its first committee.


On a 6-1 vote, Senate Bill 68, which creates and funds Oceti Sakowin community-based schools, passed the Senate Education committee.


ASBSD opposes the bill due to the legal questions it raises, governance issues it presents and liability concerns involved with the proposal.


SB 68 would require a public school board to approve an application for a proposed community-based school if the application meets vague criteria and, once approved, control of the community-based school would be turned over to, what was a noted by a proponent of the bill, essentially a non-profit organization and separate governing board.


In addition, the general fund dollars provided to the public school district from local taxpayers and the state would follow the proportion of students enrolled in the community-based school.


“This is really a critical obstacle in the bill” ASBSD Executive Director Wade Pogany told members of the Senate Education committee, adding that public school boards are given powers by the constitution, legislature and local taxpayers to operate a school district and utilize tax dollars.


“Who is ultimately accountable to the taxpayers?”


Pogany also noted the bill “rips out local control” due to the application process and that “a separate board” would be in control of the community-based school with few options for oversight by the local public school board.


Concerns were expressed by Pogany about possible liability issues, as well. SB 68 says a school board is not held liable for “Any act or omission undertaken in good faith, and within the scope of authority, regarding an Oceti Sakowin community-based school established or operated in accordance with this chapter.”


However, Pogany pointed out the bill “does not address” the possibility of a negligent act being committed and the “local school board could be held liable for that, of which (public school boards) have no control.”


“We are grossly exposed,” Pogany said.


SB 68 is on the Senate floor and expected to be voted on Monday (2/1).


For updates on this bill and others, check the ASBSD Blog and Bill Tracker page.

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