Free, reduced lunch adjustments to enrollment leads SDHSAA constitutional amendments on ballot
Using the formula, according the rationale, would allow schools to remain at a classification level that appropriately reflects their opportunities.
PIERRE — At its annual meeting Tuesday, the South Dakota High School Activities Association approved submitting seven constitutional amendments to a vote of member schools.
Perhaps the most far-reaching of the amendments would use a free and reduced lunch formula to adjust the enrollment numbers that are used to determine classifications and alignments for schools in sports and activities.
The formula could reduce a school’s enrollment numbers by 30%. An example offered Tuesday proposed a high school with an enrollment of 400 in which 85% of the students are eligible for a free or reduced lunch. The formula calls for 30 to be multiplied by .85 for 25.5. That number is then subtracted from 100 for 74.5. Used as a percentage, .745, that number is then multiplied by the enrollment figure, 400, reducing the enrollment number used for classification from 400 to 298.
The rationale for the amendment, as offered by SDHSAA staff and the organization’s Native American Advisory Council says: “We have a number of schools on the line between classifications with large populations of students who qualify for free and reduced lunch. In general, those schools and students have severe discrepancies in access to equipment and school/personal access to outside training opportunities as compared to similar-sized schools with low populations of students who qualify for free and reduced lunch.”
The rationale statement goes on to say that the free and reduced lunch multiplier is used in other states where it is “widely accepted” as a major factor in athletic and activity success. Using the formula, according the rationale, would allow schools to remain at a classification level that appropriately reflects their opportunities.
“There’s a big difference there” in access to facilities, said SDHSAA Executive Director Dan Swartos, noting that similar formulas are used in Minnesota and North Dakota.
Board members said there have been some questions about the amendment from schools.
“This may not have a possibility of passing if people don’t know what the numbers are,” said board member Kelly Messmer of Harding County.
Swartos said he would apply the free and reduced lunch numbers to some enrollments and send the data to schools so that members could see how it would affect classifications. He said Todd County and Lakota Tech, a relatively new high school near the Pine Ridge Reservation, are both close to going from A to AA in classification.
“This would prevent them from moving up,” Swartos said.
Another amendment changes the eligibility appeals process for athletes. Currently, that process includes a Level One appeal that is heard by the executive director. If that decision is appealed, it goes to a Level Two appeal heard by a three-member committee that can include superintendents, high school principals, activities directors and school board members. If the committee’s decision is appealed, Level Three is an appeal before the SDHSAA board of directors.
The amendment changes the Level Two appeal by appointing three SDHSAA board members to the appeals committee. The rationale for the change says that the association’s executive director processes between 80 and 100 hardship requests per year. Changing the make-up of the appeals committee assures that the people hearing the appeal are better informed about SDHSAA rules and bylaws. The three board members on the Level Two committee would not participate in the Level Three appeal to the full board.
“It put those people in a bad spot,” said Swartos, referring to the administrators selected randomly to hear appeals.
The amendment also makes changes to ensure that a school’s superintendent or a school board member signs off whenever an appeal is made. In the past, some appeals have been brought to SDHSAA without the knowledge of member school administrators.
Two amendments bring the organization’s bylaws into compliance with current state law regarding home-schooling. One allows competition by seventh and eighth grade students in high school activities if they satisfy SDHSAA’s scholastic standards. Another allows students receiving alternative education to satisfy the scholastic standards for participation.
Two other amendments bring the bylaws into compliance with the organization’s current practice. One calls for a school’s resolution authorizing membership to be signed by the superintendent and the chairman of the board of education. The other notes that SDHSAA has suspended membership dues and fees, but allows them to be reinstated if necessary.
Another amendment deletes a reference to No Child Left Behind from transfer rules.
Member schools will receive their ballots for the amendments by April 22, with each school getting one vote. Ballots must be returned to SDHSAA by May 31. Constitutional amendments must receive an endorsement from 60% of the member schools in order to pass.