Schools approve adjusting enrollment numbers using free lunch data
At its annual meeting in April, schools that belong to the South Dakota High School Activities Association were presented with seven constitutional amendments. Six of them were easily endorsed while the seventh came close to defeat.
The election results were ratified by the SDHSAA board of directors at its meeting on Thursday, June 9.
On a vote of 101 to 54, member schools endorsed an amendment instituting a formula that would allow a school's enrollment figures to be reduced by 30% using data based on how many students in the district were eligible for free and reduced lunches.
Enrollment figures are used to determine a school's classification in athletics and fine arts activities. Classifications are created on a two-year cycle. The lunch data will be used when classifications are determined for the 2024 to 2025 and 2025 to 2026 school years.
According to the organization's bylaws, constitutional amendments must garner 60% of the vote for passage. The free and reduced lunch amendment earned 65% of the vote.
The association's rationale for offering the amendment said: "We have a number of schools on the line between classifications with large populations of students who qualify for free and reduced lunch. In general, those schools and students have severe discrepancies in access to equipment and school/personal access to outside training opportunities as compared to similar sized schools with low populations of students who qualify for free and reduced lunch. This multiplier is used in several other states, and free and reduced lunch percentage has been widely accepted as a major factor in athletic/activity success. This multiplier would allow those schools to remain in a classification level that most appropriately reflects their opportunities."
Two SDHSAA board members are school board members and both their boards voted against passage of the amendment.
Marty Weismantel said the Groton School Board took issue with the portion of the rationale noting that schools with large populations of students who qualify for free and reduced lunch are likely to have less access to training facilities. Weismantel said small, rural schools like Groton are also at a disadvantage when it comes to training facilities.
Mark Murphy said the Aberdeen School Board voted against passage of the amendment because its members believed that there are "more factors than this (free and reduced lunches) when it comes to determining poverty."
The six other amendments were easily approved by the member schools, with two passing unanimously, two with just one no vote, one with two no votes and one with four no votes.
Approved by the schools were an amendment that would change the eligibility appeals process, two that would bring the association into compliance with recently passed laws regarding home-schooled students, two that would change the constitution to reflect current practices by the association and one that deletes a reference to No Child Left Behind.