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HB 1006: Minor Revisions, or Trouble for Big Stone City and Elk Mountain?

HB 1006 revises a bunch of obsolete and outdated language in South Dakota's Chapter 13, our laws on education. Among the revisions, I find one notable passage:

Section 5. That § 13-6-2 be amended to read as follows:
13-6-2. It is the policy of the State Legislature:

(1) That school districts exist for the purpose of operating a school or schools to provide the people of each local community adequate opportunity to avail themselves of a free public elementary, and secondary education program. Each school district should operate a school or schools providing for elementary education, and each school district through its elected school board or by vote of the voters shall decide whether or not and secondary education programs shall be offered;....

This change to mandate secondary education may be no big deal. Since 1998, state law has required new districts to offer both elementary and secondary education. Perhaps some other statute I haven't found yet already makes offering secondary education mandatory, not optional, for existing school districts.

But as I peruse the list of South Dakota school districts, I find two—Big Stone City School District 25-1 in northeastern Grant County and Elk Mountain School District in western Custer County—that offer only K-8, no high school.

Ah, but those two districts do contract with the South Dakota Virtual School to provide secondary courses. So does that count as "providing" secondary education, or would this language change in HB 1006 force Big Stone City and Elk Mountain to consolidate with their neighbors?


  1. Stan Gibilisco 2011.12.30

    "Each school district should [emphasis mine] operate a school or schools providing for elementary and secondary education programs ..."

    Two thoughts from your local Vulcan logic consultant.

    First, the word "should" does not carry the same force as the word "shall" or the word "must." Oh, lots of things should happen that don't, and yet, no law suffers violation on that account.

    Second, if a virtual school qualifies a legal school, then I would say that yes, contracting with a virtual school to provide secondary courses online would meet the requirements of the new law as written.

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