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House panel won't interfere on eligibility for home-school students on extracurricular events

School supply photo illustration. (Matt Gade/Republic)

PIERRE — For home-school students wanting to participate in extracurricular activities in the local school, the decision should remain with the local school district, a South Dakota legislative panel decided Monday.

The House Education Committee voted 10-5 to reject legislation that would have greatly broadened the ability of home-school student to play sports or take part in music, debate or other competitive school events.

Under the current law that's been in place since 2003, the school district sets requirements for participating in extracurricular activities, such as whether the home-school student needs to take courses from the district to qualify.

The bill's prime sponsor, Rep. Sue Peterson, R-Sioux Falls, said some school districts don't have any course requirements and others vary. The legislation would have stripped school districts of the authority to set their local requirements.

The requirement set by the Sioux Falls district is four courses, according to testimony Monday. Peterson said her two oldest sons went through the public school system and their youngest has been home-schooled since fourth grade.

"This is a pro-student bill. It's not an anti-public school bill. It's not an extracurricular bill. It's a pro-student bill," Peterson said.

The state Department of Education and the South Dakota High School Activities Association opposed the measure, HB 1123. So did the Associated School Boards, the School Administrators of South Dakota and the large schools coalition.

Local control was one reason. Another was a lack of complaints.

"Things have been working in the state," state Education Secretary Melody Schopp said.

But the issue isn't dead. A similar measure is pending in the Senate where its first hearing is yet to be scheduled. And before the House panel voted, Rep. Julie Frye-Mueller, R-Rapid City, urged that more time be allowed to work on it.

Rep. Mike Stevens, R-Yankton, spoke against the legislation.

"Any time somebody makes a decision, there are consequences for the decision," Stevens said. "I've had zero, absolutely zero, complaints."

In other action, the House committee agreed 15-0 to change the word "application" to "notification" in the law regarding when parents let a district know their child will be in a home school rather than the public school.

No one spoke against that measure, HB 1122. It now moves to the full House of Representatives.

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