The first debate on a proposal to overhaul alternative instruction laws took place today (2/9).
Senate Education committee members held a nearly two hour hearing on Senate Bill 177, which makes significant changes to alternative instruction, or homeschool, laws, and will continue the bill hearing on Thursday (2/11).
ASBSD opposes the bill.
The bill potentially makes it easier for students to withdraw from public schools and not be supervised, raises a safety concerns for South Dakota children no longer connected to public school districts and creates fairness concerns between public school students and homeschooling students.
ASBSD Executive Director Wade Pogany testified before the committee the bill that while he respected the homeschool system and those testifying in support of the proposal, it “makes it easier” for students to seek an alternative instruction exemption through the new application process and the conversation around the proposal needed to focus on “those students who are not receiving an education.
SB 177 also removes most education oversight and regulation of homeschool education as it proposes removal of all testing requirements, birth certificate submission and truancy laws.
Pogany noted “even in our current system there’s very little accountability” and “creates a lot of double standards” between public schools and alternative instruction as those requirements remain in place for public school districts.
“Why would we have a higher standard for public school students and a lesser standard” for homeschool students, Pogany asked the committee.
In addition, the bill strips public school boards of decision making ability as to whether or not a homeschool student can participate in an extracurricular activity offered in the school district with most of the proponent testimony focused on perceived participation inequities.
“Clearly this debate is about participation,” Pogany said, adding the bill “completely strips our local school boards of decision making ability.”
SDHSAA Executive Director Dan Swartos added concerns of creation of an “unequivocal eligibility card” for homeschool students as a parent could become “the sole determinant of eligibility.”
“Our fear is that this could potentially open up a doorway of an option for (a student) dropping out and remaining eligible,” Swartos said.
With Swartos noting the bill “could read as the parent is the one who is deciding if the student is eligible or not” and “that is a huge concern.”
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