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SDPB Radio Coverage of the South Dakota Legislature. See all coverage and find links to audio and video streams live from the Capitol at www.sdpb.org/statehouse

Lawmakers Seek Changing Requirements for Petitioning Starting School Date

State lawmakers are looking to make changing the school start date easier for residents in large school districts. House Bill 1164 failed narrowly Tuesday morning, but was reconsidered in the afternoon. Current law requires petition signatures from 5-percent of the registered voters’ in a district to make a date change.

Members approved an amendment that applies the bill only to school districts with more than 5,000 registered voters who took part in the last general election. Senators had expressed concerns about people in small school districts needing only a small number of signatures to make the change. Senator Al Novstrup speaks in favor of the amended measure.

“In the very large school districts, it is very difficult to challenge the decision of the school board in 20 days, because your limit in getting the signatures is 20 days. So what we’re doing is we’re saying that instead of having a very high number in the large school districts, it will be a lesser number but still a substantial number. Right the way the law is today, it’s nearly impossible to exercise the vote of the democracy and the ballot to challenge the opening date of the school,” Novstrup says.

Opponents to the bill say referring a measure to ballot should require a tougher threshold. They also point to the costs and potential for residents to call for changes in other school dates. House Bill 1164's reconsidered vote narrowly passed the Senate 19 to 16. The House must now approve the changes.