A bill, moving forward in Pierre, would make it easier for parents to put the school start date to a public vote. A House committee has passed the latest version of House Bill 1164. According to the bill, if a school district schedules the first day of classes before the first Tuesday in September, parents could put the start date to a public vote. They would just need to get five percent of registered voters who voted in the last general election to sign a petition.
"(It) allows, still, for the local control and it allows for our families to have a voice for their kids and for the community to be a part of that local decision," Rep. Christine Erickson, (R) Sioux Falls, said.
On Thursday, in front of a House Committee, Erickson said supporters merely want to be a part of the conversation when it comes to setting the school calendar start date. South Dakota Hotel and Lodging Association members have said starting school too early in August interferes with the prime season for tourists. Executive Director Michele Brich supports the bill.
"It does provide a much more realistic approach to school start date referrals, and actually would allow a more realistic approach to putting it in the hands of voters," Michelle Brich, SD Hotel and Lodging Association, said.
Not everyone agrees. Rob Monson, the Executive Director for School Administrators of South Dakota, said this bill would take away local control from school districts.
"Last year, we were handed the Sentinel Act, and told we could decide whether or not we could do it at the local level. So, last year, schools were trusted with guns. This year, we can't be trusted with a school calendar," Monson said.
"The District opposes this bill based upon the continued premise of infringement of local control. If having more decisions made by elected officials being referred to the public is a good idea, then the state legislators who believe this should also make it easier to refer state decisions by lowering the percent of voters required to sign petitions and limit emergency clauses on bills to real emergencies.
"You know before the school year ends this year, when you're going to graduate, barring any snow days, wind days, heat days; whatever you might have. But local control is where this bill should stay," Mitch Richter, South Dakota United School Association, said.
The Sioux Falls School District also is not a fan of the bill. A statement on the district's website reads:
This bill is not about a grand concept of letting the people make more of their own governmental decisions through direct elections; it is simply about the original sponsors of HB1093 trying to achieve a later school start date --one way or another. Fifty-eight percent of the House (almost the exact same percent of South Dakota residents who voted against the late school start date in 2006)"