There may only be one final legislative hurdle for a bill bringing sweeping changes to homeschool laws to clear.
Senate Bill 177, which makes significant changes to homeschool laws, passed the House State Affairs Committee on Monday (3/1) by an 8-5 vote and now moves to the House floor for review and vote, and if passed in its current form, would go to Gov. Kristi Noem to be signed into law.
ASBSD opposes the bill, whose supporters called arguments against it “ludicrous”, that concerns about the bill “don’t hold water” and opposition testimony was characterized “as a tongue lashing” to the supporters of homeschool.
SB 177 removes all decision making ability of public school boards by allowing homeschool students to participate in all extracurricular activities without local district oversight.
The bill also creates inequities between public school students and homeschool students as all testing requirements and instruction oversight are removed, it permits a homeschool student to be eligible for activities without meeting local academic standards and simply requires a parent or guardian to declare the homeschool student eligible to participate.
Pierre Activities Director Brian Moser told committee members the bill “does not require” grade submission or proof of academic eligibility for those homeschool students seeking to participate in activities in a public school district.
“This bill allows for an inequality,” Moser said.
SB 177 also circumvents the local public school district in the homeschool application process and poses potential safety concerns for a student no longer connected to a public school district as there is no accountability for parents or guardians.
Sioux Falls School Board President Cynthia Mickelson testified the bill “makes it nearly impossible to get that child back” into the public school system once they are exempt as there is no longer a communication channel beyond the requirement to allow the student to participate.
Governor’s Office General Counsel Mark Miller said in South Dakota “the schools don’t control” the people and called the state’s current laws “unfriendly” to homeschool families.
Samantha Field of the Coalition for Responsible Homeschooling told committee members South Dakota has done a good job when it comes to handling homeschooling, but the “gaping loopholes” in the bill “opens the door for the exploitation and abuse” of homeschool children.
“No one will be able to stop abusive parents,” Field said.
As SB 177 heads to the House floor for review and debate, potentially as soon as Tuesday (3/2), ASBSD is requesting all school board members to contact their Representatives and tell them to vote NO on the bill.
“This bill is bringing major changes to a system that is working and has worked for years,” ASBSD Executive Director wade Pogany said.
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