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Daugaard offers plan to raise teacher pay

PIERRE, S.D. -- South Dakota Gov. Dennis Daugaard wants to lift South Dakota out of last place in teacher pay.In his State of the State address on Tuesday at the State Capitol in Pierre he told legislators and a statewide public broadcasting netw...

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Gov. Dennis Daugaard delivers his state of the state address in the House Chambers of the state capitol on Tuesday in Pierre. (Matt Gade/Republic)

PIERRE, S.D. - South Dakota Gov. Dennis Daugaard wants to lift South Dakota out of last place in teacher pay.
In his State of the State address on Tuesday at the State Capitol in Pierre he told legislators and a statewide public broadcasting network that, “This is the year. This is the year to get out of last place. This is the year to act.”
The governor is recommending a half-cent increase in the state sales tax to fund the program. It would be the first permanent increase in the state’s portion of the sales tax in more than 50 years.
He wants to raise the average state pay for teachers from an average of about $40,000 to $48,500.
That he said would make the state competitive in teacher pay and move it out of last place in pay.
He said just a few years ago, some other surrounding states were in the bottom of the pack, too, but now Montana is 28th, Nebraska is 32nd and North Dakota is 36th.
“The situation is deteriorating for us,” Daugaard said. “The gap is is getting worse.”
Daugaard, in his second and final term as governor, also told the legislators on the first day of their session that “a new generation of quality teacher is needed” to help the state’s students maintain high achievement.
“We’re not going to get them unless we become more competitive with surrounding states,” he said about the teacher pay.
Democrats, in a small minority in the state legislature, said in a news conference after the governor’s speech they would like to go even further and raise the average pay to $50,000 with a student to teacher ratio even lower than what Daugaard proposed.
Daugaard said he would shoot for a ratio of 15 students per teacher in schools with 600 or more students and 12.5 to 1 ratio in smaller schools of 200 students or less with a sliding scale for schools in between.
The Democrats said they would like to see a 1 cent sales tax increase to pay for the higher teacher salaries and to also cut out the sales tax on food in the state.
The half cent sales tax Daugaard proposes would bring in about $100 million, with $60 million going to the schools and another $40 million he would like to see go to property tax relief.
The recommendation for the higher teacher pay and the way to raise funds came from a blue ribbon task force Daugaard appointed including educators, legislators and members of the public. He said they had dozens of meetings across the state and five daylong public meetings.
Daugaard said without raising pay it’s going to be more and more difficult to find teachers to fill positions around the state, with many remote schools not getting any applicants at all for some positions.
In other highlights of his speech, Daugaard said the state is balancing its budget and has a AAA bond rating, a new state park in the Spearfish Canyon in the Black Hills should be developed, and that the state should continue to pursue expanding Medicaid for the state’s poor if a new formula can be worked out between the state and Indian Health Services for reimbursement for Indians who seek care at other than IHS facilities. If the federal government OKs the new reimbursement formula, it would be enough to allow the state to expand Medicaid to more of the poor in the state.

Related Topics: PIERREEDUCATION
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