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After 15 Years, Victory in SD!

by Scott Woodruff • February 27, 2019

On February 13, Governor Kristi Noem signed House Bill 1040 into law, ending 15 years of discrimination and giving homeschool graduates access to the South Dakota Opportunity Scholarship without needing a higher ACT score than others.

The passage of House Bill 1040 means that homeschoolers, as of July 1, 2019 (the bill’s effective date), no longer have to score higher on the ACT than other students in order to qualify for the scholarship.

Here are highlights of the many efforts by homeschool advocates to achieve this breakthrough.

  • 2004: Then-Secretary of Education Rick Melmer got the ball rolling on implementing the South Dakota Opportunity Scholarship, but in a manner that discriminated against homeschool graduates. In late 2004, the homeschool community worked to bring fairness to the program, but with nothing to show for their efforts in the end.
  • 2010: Representative Dan Lederman filed House Bill 1160, which would have allowed homeschool graduates to qualify for the scholarship upon earning an ACT score of 26 or higher (versus 24 for other students.) After much wrangling and many compromises, the bill was changed to require an ACT score of 28, and to make this new path to qualification available to all students. In this form, the bill became law.
  • 2013: Representative Lance Russell and Senator Tim Begalka sponsored House Bill 1128, which would have allowed any student to qualify with an ACT score of 26. The bill was amended to apply only to homeschool graduates and passed the House on a close vote. But the bill died when senators Rave, Johnston, Soholt and Maher voted against it in Senate committee on February 21, 2013.
  • 2018: Senator Jack Kolbeck and Representative Sue Peterson sponsored, Senate Bill 94, which would have allowed a homeschool graduate to qualify with an ACT score of 24—the same score that applies to others—if the graduate had a high school transcript showing coursework comparable to what is required for other graduates. It was amended to remove the comparable coursework requirement and insert in its place a list of required courses. S.B. 94 passed the Senate overwhelmingly and passed the House with only one “no” vote. Homeschool graduates were therefore surprised and disappointed when then-Governor Daugaard vetoed it.

With a new governor at the helm of state, Kolbeck and Petersen joined forces again this year and filed a bill essentially the same as last year’s S.B. 94, House Bill 1040. It passed the House with only one “no” vote and the Senate with only seven “no” votes, including those of Soholt and Maher who had also voted against the good 2013 and 2018 bills.

The homeschool graduate’s transcript must indicate that many specific courses were taken. The required courses, as well as other requirements, can be viewed by reading the bill. Alternatively, graduates still have the option of qualifying with an ACT score of 28, without regard to what courses were taken.

H.B. 1040 says an applicant for the scholarship must apply “within five years of graduation.”

With Governor Noem’s signature on H.B. 1040, homeschool graduates are no longer required to have a higher ACT score than others to qualify for this scholarship. The level playing field we have been seeking for 15 long years has arrived!

Scott Woodruff

Senior Counsel

Scott is a seasoned attorney and homeschool advocate with decades of involvement in homeschool legal issues and cases. Read more.

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