Legislature Passes Noem Backed Bill Removing Certain Home Schooling Requirements

Mar 2, 2021

 

A bill that changes state laws around homeschooling is headed to the governor’s desk. It strips requirements that those students take standardized tests during certain grades, among other changes. 

Representatives from the governor’s office have testified in favor of the bill, referencing letters from families who wanted to move to South Dakota but didn’t after noting the state’s laws on homeschooling. 

The bill removes requirements that parents disclose the reason for enrolling their kid in “alternative instruction.” It removes the ability of the department of education to investigate whether instruction is being provided and the ability of the local school board to revoke a student’s excuse from school attendance. 

Proponents of the bill say government should not interfere if parents want to homeschool their children. About 7,000 students in South Dakota are homeschooled. 

Representative Rebecca Reimer is the prime sponsor of the bill. 

“Our responsibility as lawmakers is to give the people of South Dakota choices for the education for their children,” Reimer says. “As legislators we know that we work for the people and the people don’t work for us. That’s a bedrock principle with our bedrock way of life. And so it is with our public school system. The school is not responsible for the children. The parents are responsible.” 

The bill requires school districts allow homeschooled students to play sports, without providing districts with additional funding. 

Critics worry the statute won’t prevent abusive parents from pulling a kid from school  under the guise of “alternative instruction.” 

Republican Representative Jess Olson wants parents who homeschool their kids to at least have a high school or GED level education as at least one safeguard. 

“But when the families aren’t doing that and you have a child who is falling through the cracks and home schooling is used as a way to avoid oversight and we remove standardize testing. One level is this. What is the parents competency?” 

House lawmakers disagreed with that amendment. They are sending the bill to the governor’s desk, 41 to 27.