The Senate Education committee voted to kill a bill Thursday that would have made it so that homeschool students can only participate in school activities based on where they live, through their home district or home attendance centers, and not through open enrollment to districts.
Introduction of Senate Bill 57 this year follows the passage of Senate Bill 177 in 2021, which expanded access to district activities for students in alternative instruction or homeschool.
Lawmakers heard support for the bill Thursday from sponsor Sen. Ryan Maher, a Republican from Isabel, as well as lobbyists from School Administrators of South Dakota, Associated School Boards of South Dakota, the South Dakota High School Activities Association, the large 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 participate in their local districts there if the homeschool student isn’t living within the district’s boundaries, or open-enroll into the district for the purpose of participating in activities.
What ended up happening was there were two conflicting memorandums or opinions on what should be done in those cases, Maher said of SB 177.
Rob Monson, with SASD, said for example his son in Parkston can’t drive 10 miles outside of his district just to play sports elsewhere, and said it would be inequitable for homeschool students to do that when his son can’t.
And in its last regular school board meeting, the Sioux Falls School District and board showed support for the bill, because it clarified that alternative education students could participate in activities at their home attendance centers only. The district’s support saw opposition from a local parent affiliated with the local chapter of Moms for Liberty, during public comment period of the meeting.
Opponents to the bill included several parents of homeschool students, two homeschool children, a member of the Bison school board, the superintendent of the James Valley Christian School, lobbyists with the South Dakota Catholic Conference, Concerned Women for America, Families for Alternative Instruction Rights and Family Heritage Alliance Action, as well as Department of Education Secretary Joe Graves.
Graves said the DOE opposed the bill, because one of the goals of education is to maximize opportunities for students, and this bill would pose an obstacle to some.
Ultimately, Sen. Tom Pischke, a Republican from Dell Rapids, motioned to move the bill to the 41st Legislative Day, effectively killing it. His motion was seconded by Sen. Shawn Bordeaux, a Democrat from Mission.
The vote to kill the bill passed 5-2.