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Home School Activities Bill Dies In Pierre

Kealey Bultena

A measure that automatically allows South Dakota’s home schooled students to participate in public extracurricular activities is dead. A legislative committee considered House Bill 1123 for nearly two hours Monday before decided not to support it.

Right now school districts decide how home schooled kids qualify activities. Some educators check work from home school courses to determine eligibility. Other schools require students enroll in several classes with the district to participate in sports or fine arts activities.

Supporters of House Bill 1123 say they want consistency and fairness in access to extracurricular activities for students who attend school at home. State Representative Sue Peterson sponsors the measure.

"Is it best for each student to give him access to more opportunities or less? Is it best for her to include her or exclude her? Is it best to help him develop his God-given abilities to the fullest or to let them lie dormant and never reach their potential? This is a pro-student bill," Peterson says. "It’s not an anti-public schools bill. It’s not an extracurricular bill. It’s a pro-student bill."

Both sides agree students benefit from group activities, but critics of the legislation question its effect. Opponents say the bill forces schools to come up with the money for home schoolers to participate. 

State Education Secretary Melody Schopp says classroom students must meet weekly academic benchmarks.

"I would vouch for many of the parents who are sitting back here that we know that they are doing the best that they can for the kids, but there are situations where we don’t know what that eligibility is for a home schooled student in the same way that we require that for our public school students," Schopp says. "And there is that question about, ‘Why does that student get to participate when we don’t know where they’ve been and have the same participation requirements that the kid who is in that public school has in that way?’"

Opponents say a statewide law removes local control.

Ten of the 15 members of House Education opted to kill the bill. Its prime sponsor thanked lawmakers, saying they are likely to hear from stakeholders again.