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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

Lawmakers Seek Accountability In Potential Teacher Pay Increase

Jenifer Jones
SD State Capitol

A Republican leader says lawmakers working to raise teacher pay have a major concern: accountability. Republicans – and Democrats at the Statehouse want to make sure that any money earmarked for teacher pay isn’t funneled elsewhere by schools. Lawmakers are trying to figure out the best way to make this happen.

House Majority Leader Brian Gosch says Republicans in Pierre want to ensure school districts use any funding boost for teacher salaries on teacher salaries.

"We want to make sure the money gets to teachers, because that’s what this has all been about and the discussion’s all been about: getting teacher pay up," Gosch says. 

Gosch says lawmakers can achieve that by crafting specific consequences for school districts that receive additional money but don’t increase salaries. Some Republicans back a plan that requires schools put 90 percent of new money into teacher pay. If they don’t, the district loses a chunk of the funding the next year.

A provision in the governor’s Senate Bill 131 does mandate schools use at least 90 percent of the funding increase on teacher pay. It does not have a consequence set into law. Tony VenHuizen is the governor's chief of staff.

"I saw a draft amendment that I believe will be offered in the House on Thursday that will include a more extensive system of accountability that includes specific repercussions if schools don’t use this money for teachers’ salaries, and the governor would support that," VenHuizen says. 

VenHuizen says schools have many needs but the one the governor wants addressed this year is teacher compensation.

Democratic leaders say they too support accountability for schools, but they want to make sure local leaders are still able to make decisions based on their needs. Democrats also say the plan itself has accountability built-in, because schools can’t pocket huge sums in reserve funds. They add that market competition forces districts to add to teacher pay or risk losing educators to surrounding schools.

Kealey Bultena grew up in South Dakota, where her grandparents took advantage of the state’s agriculture at nap time, tricking her into car rides to “go see cows.” Rarely did she stay awake long enough to see the livestock, but now she writes stories about the animals – and the legislature and education and much more. Kealey worked in television for four years while attending the University of South Dakota. She started interning with South Dakota Public Broadcasting in September 2010 and accepted a position with television in 2011. Now Kealey is the radio news producer stationed in Sioux Falls. As a multi-media journalist, Kealey prides herself on the diversity of the stories she tells and the impact her work has on people across the state. Kealey is always searching for new ideas. Let her know of a great story! Find her on Facebook and twitter (@KealeySDPB).