PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — Two bills dealing with education were recently introduced into the South Dakota Legislature. One seeks to expand virtual schooling and the other to provide taxpayer funding for private school tuition.

HB 1233, brought by Republican Rep. Scott Odenbach and co-sponsored by Republican Representatives Jon Hansen and Bethany Soye, seeks to expand the role of online education for students of South Dakota’s public schools.

The bill would allow any student, with parental consent, to participate in school entirely online through programs obtained and provided by the state. A provision of the bill would also require the school system to provide upon request online education programs free of charge to accredited, non-public schools and parents who home school.

The bill would also increase terms of office for a governor-appointed South Dakota Virtual School Advisory Council from two years to three.

The second bill, HB 1234, this time sponsored by Hansen and co-sponsored by Odenbach and Soye, is a bill to provide vouchers for students to attend private schools.

This bill would require the Department of Education to pay for in-state private school tuition for any South Dakota child:

  • In kindergarten through third grade for the 2023-2024 school year,
  • In kindergarten through seventh grade for the 2024-2025 school year, and
  • In kindergarten through twelfth grade for the 2025-2026 school year.

The DOE would be required to forward either the amount of the school’s tuition, or the per student equivalent, directly to the private school in which the child is enrolled.

In a joint release, Odenbach and Hansen provided sales pitches for their bills.

Hansen wrote of HB 1234 that it “recognizes that every parent deserves the freedom to choose the best educational option for their child,” and that public funding for education should “follow the student and not the system.”

Odenbach, writing about HB 1233, said that it is “time we look at all suitable means to bring our public education model out of the 19th and into the 21st Century.” He added that virtual school will allow for educational freedom, and will help deal with parents who travel, kids who are bullied and those with medical conditions.