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South Dakota

May 19, 2004
Homeschoolers Fight Discrimination in Opportunity Scholarship Program

South Dakota Education Secretary Rick Melmer and the South Dakota Board of Regents are teaming up to advance a discriminatory scholarship plan that bristles with hostility to homeschooling.

The South Dakota legislature last year created the Opportunity Scholarship program to encourage bright South Dakota high school graduates to go to college in South Dakota. If a graduate satisfies the five simple requirements of the program, he is eligible for the scholarship, regardless of the particular high school program he attended. The requirements are:

  1. Be a South Dakota resident upon graduation from high school;
  2. Score at least 24 on the ACT (or a comparable score on the SAT);
  3. Take certain high school courses and maintain a B average with no grade lower than a C;
  4. Attend a university, college, or technical school in South Dakota that is accredited;
  5. Enter the university, etc., within five years of high school graduation (with some exceptions).

Unfortunately, Melmer and the Regents cannot bear to leave the legislature's simple plan alone.

Melmer has stated publicly that homeschool graduates may have to take "end of course exams." State approved "end of course exams" would cover the material taught in the public school curriculum. This would discriminate against homeschoolers because they do not follow the public school curriculum.

And the Regents want to adopt a rule that only students graduating from approved or accredited high schools can receive the scholarship. This would automatically exclude all homeschoolers.

Requiring "end of course exams" and attendance at an "approved or accredited school" is like a large, flashing, neon sign that says, "Bright homeschool graduates are not welcome."

The parents of "unwelcome" homeschool students will find many other colleges eager to enroll their students. In fact, many colleges have special scholarships to attract homeschool graduates. This makes sense for colleges since studies show that homeschool graduates have higher college grade point averages than others.

Parents whose students find a warmer welcome elsewhere will send thousands of dollars of their hard earned money out of state to pay for the education. After finishing college, these bright young students may not return to South Dakota to help build its future. This means fewer jobs in South Dakota.

Melmer and the Regents so far have dismissed the concerns of homeschoolers.

On Thursday, June 3, the Regents will ask a committee of lawmakers in Pierre to approve their discriminatory rule. This is the moment of truth for the lawmakers, the Regents, and hundreds of homeschool families in South Dakota. It is time for lawmakers to insist that their simple plan, which includes homeschoolers, be implemented.