South Dakota
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South Dakota

February 22, 2007

How HB 1266 Will Hurt Taxpayers and Help Finance Failure

Dear HSLDA members and friends,

We have heard reports that some are claiming HB 1266 is not intended as a way to channel money to the South Dakota Virtual High School (SDVHS). Similar schools in Idaho have been proven to produce results inferior to brick and mortar public schools.

Here is a detailed explanation.

Currently, all public schools in South Dakota receive funding based on the "average daily membership" or ADM (how many students are at the school). ADM, in turn, is based on enrollment. Enrollment is defined as excluding all homeschoolers (alternative instruction, or AI, students). See South Dakota Codified Laws 13-13-10.4(4).

Therefore, if an AI student were to enroll in a public school right now, the school would not get paid--because an AI student by definition is not considered "enrolled" in a public school for purposes of determining funding.

In view of this, if an AI student were to enroll today in a public school to get access to the SDVHS, no state money would flow to the local school. The local school would be very unlikely to want the AI student to enroll because SDVHS will charge the school money, but the school will get no state funding. The bottom line is that schools will have no financial incentive to go out and try to pressure AI students to enroll to get access to the SDVHS.

Each provision of HB 1266, however, is carefully designed to accomplish the ultimate goal of spending tax money on the failed virtual school model.

First, HB 1266 allows a public school district to "enroll" an AI student. Next, it states that such a student must be included in the school's ADM for purposes of getting state funding. Finally, it allows an AI student to enroll in any public school district in the state (assuming the school district is willing, which it will be because of the money).

Put these all together, and you have the perfect plan to hoodwink the taxpayers of South Dakota. Current laws protect taxpayers by saying that AI students can never be counted as enrollment. HB 1266 removes this fiscal protection. It will open the floodgates to public schools who want to pressure and recruit homeschool students to enroll to get access to SDVHS. I am confident that local schools will make a profit on every AI student they hook. When they look at AI students, they will see dollar bills.

They will profit one of two ways (and maybe others). Either the SDVHS will allow the public school to keep some of the state ADM money attributable to each AI student, or the SDVHS will give a cash kickback to the public school. Either way, AI students will start to look like golden geese, and cash-hungry school districts will come after them. And since HB 1266 allows an AI student to enroll in ANY district, it will only take one cash-desperate district to begin a massive pressure and recruitment campaign with the goal of sweeping every possible homeschool student into the program.

There will be two large groups of "losers." The first will be the taxpayers of South Dakota. Every time a student who was formerly homeschooled enrolls in a school district to get access to SDVHS, taxpayers will get socked with the bill. A student who cost them nothing last year will cost them $4,000 this year (assuming at least half time enrollment).

The second group of losers will be the students who participate in SDVHS. Hard data from Idaho indicate that students in their virtual schools underperform brick and mortar public school students. This is a powerful indictment of the government trying to get into the homeschool business.

Homeschooling works because parents feel a deep sense of ownership and responsibility. Virtual public school programs encourage parents to delegate responsibility to the state. The results are that the kids underperform. Public-school-at-home programs may become a cash cow for cash-hungry public schools, but they will be a black eye for education, and opponents of homeschooling will use this to attack authentic homeschooling.

Homeschool families should oppose HB 1266 vigorously.

Text of HB 1266
HSLDA Summary

Sincerely Yours,
Scott A. Woodruff