A “scam” by a South Dakota school superintendent offering homeschoolers free laptops in exchange for enrolling in his district for one day has been explained.
He was just hoping to interest them in a distance-learning program.
“We thought providing valuable learning tools to our homeschool students while also increasing school revenue was a good idea,” Tri-Valley District Supt. Mike Lodmel said in a letter to the South Dakota Government Operations and Oversight Committee.
The group was assigned to investigate whether or not Lodmel’s scheme was an attempt “to game student headcounts for purposes of garnering more state funds.”
As WND reported last month, Lodmel sent officials to the front doors of families with homeschooled students, presenting the offer. The Argus-Leader in Sioux Falls reported he wanted the children to spend one day in public school “and go home with a new laptop.”
The invitation was for Sept. 29, the day the state counted school attendance for calculating the state tax payments that go to each district.
He candidly told homeschooling families he wasn’t trying to get them to abandon homeschooling.
“The more students that attend school on this day means more funding for our district and less of a tax burden on our patrons. It’s also a way to help our home-school families with a no-cost lap top that can be utilized for your child’s education, if you choose to do so,” he wrote.
He called it a “win-win for both our district and our homeschool families.”
Now the Home School Legal Defense Association, which addressed the issue with state officials, says Lodmel is offering an explanation.
“In a letter to the committee, Lodmel explained he had intended to introduce homeschooling families to online distance-learning software that includes full-credit courses ‘based on state standards,'” the organization said.
“Having homeschool students sample the computers and software the same day the state determined per-pupil funding, Lodmel wrote, meant his district would not have had to bear the cost all on its own,” said HSLDA.
But HSLDA said others see the issue in another context.
“His proposal was clearly an attempt to defraud the taxpayer,” state Rep. Sue Peterson charged in a report in the Argus-Leader. “And he’s been caught red-handed and now he’s trying to backpedal on this.”
Scott Woodruff, HSLDA’s contact attorney for the state, explained in an interview on American Family Radio that the campaign had a hidden motive.
“A knock on the door in the middle of the day from a public school representative was very distracting and unwelcome for homeschooling families,” Woodruff said in the interview.
He said it showed there are districts that use “less-than-perfectly-transparent” efforts to lure students in.
HSLDA officials earlier concluded there was nothing technically or legally out of bounds on the part of the families.
But Woodruff said there are details to review, such as the possibility a student might be prevented from homeschooling after enrolling at a public school.
The governor’s office rebuked Lodmel, calling the offer a fraud and demanding he withdraw it, which he did.
“The governor views this as a tactic to try to scam the state funding formula,” said Tony Venhuizen, the governor’s chief of staff.