Committee defeats Schoenbeck-backed bill on school attendance age

February 14, 2023

PIERRE, S.D.–Legislators killed a bill today that would have lowered South Dakota’s mandatory school attendance age from 18 to 16.

Senate Bill 65 was before the Senate Education Committee.

Republican Sen. Lee Schoenbeck of Watertown (pictured), the bill’s sponsor, said that the public schools have become the new place to house juvenile offenders.

These students, he said, are disrupting the educational experience of both students and teachers.

Several educational groups opposed the bill.

However, the committee also heard from a Watertown Arrow Success Academy student who said having to stay in school until 18 changed her life.

“I was going to give up,” Amanda Schaaf testified. “Don’t give up on kids like me.”

Much of the committee discussion before the vote centered on possible juvenile justice system reforms and alternative pathways to a high school diploma or other certification.

Dianna Miller, a lobbyist for the Large School Group and a former teacher, noted, “We can’t keep lowering the school age to get rid of kids.”

The committee voted 5 to 1 to send the measure to the 41st legislative day, effectively killing it.