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SDPB Radio Coverage of the South Dakota Legislature. See all coverage and find links to audio and video streams live from the Capitol at www.sdpb.org/statehouse

Possible Teacher Pay Raises Vary Across SD

Kealey Bultena

Public school administrators are telling teachers a plan to increase the average teacher salary to more than $48,500 doesn’t mean pay raises across the board. Governor Dennis Daugaard wants to boost education funding by raising the sales tax by a half cent. 

South Dakota’s Blue Ribbon Task Force determined that teacher pay in South Dakota is behind surrounding states by thousands of dollars. Now lawmakers must decide on the right mechanism for funding K-12 education and how much money school districts should receive.

Governor Dennis Daugaard’s plan raises enough money to push the average teacher salary to $48,500.

Harrisburg Superintendent Jim Holbeck says he’s careful to clarify that the numbers state leaders use to discuss raises for teachers are averages for all of South Dakota.

“Last year, if we would have told our teachers we could give, let’s say, a $4,000 raise, our teachers would have been ecstatic,” Holbeck says. “If they hear that everyone’s getting an $8,500 raise, we have to explain to them that that’s not true. We’re hoping that they’re not upset with that.”

Holbeck says teachers understand that the discussion focuses on increasing the average salary not ensuring a specific raise to every teacher.

State leaders emphasize the proposal keeps salary decisions under local control. Holbeck says the governor’s plan infuses $1.7 million in new money into his district.

“Now if I divide all my teachers into that and not give anybody else any other raise, it works out to about a $5,300-5,400 raise. Well, we have to take care of all the other employees and give them raises,” Holbeck says. “So the only thing we are telling our teachers is this: it’s not going to be an $8,500 raise in Harrisburg. There’s no way possibly we can get to that. The question is, are you happy with getting maybe somewhere close to half of that amount?”

Holbeck says the funding plan gives some districts enough money to increase teacher salaries significantly more than works in Harrisburg. He says other districts are faced with providing smaller raises to classroom teachers.

Holbeck says the effort to boost teacher salaries is the biggest he’s seen in nearly 30 years in administration. He says superintendents welcome the funding for teacher pay. 

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