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School Officials Call For Tweaks To Teacher Pay Legislation

Erin Mairose

Some education officials are calling for clean-up legislation following last year’s teacher pay raises.  

Educators from across the state gathered Thursday in Sioux Falls at the ­­­­Associated School Boards and School Administrators Convention

Joy Smolnisky is with the South Dakota Budget and Policy Institute. She says now that the half cent sales tax to raise teacher salaries is signed into law, the legislation needs to be adjusted to clarify how the pay increase is implemented.  

“There were two bills passed. One said half cent goes towards raising teacher’s salaries- a percentage of that half cent. The other one said teacher’s salaries go up inflation or 3 percent, whichever one is less. So this is one of those clean up situations where you need to go back after the bills have been passed and say, “how is this actually going to work when we do the calculations?” says Smolnisky.

Some educators have questions about the new law.  Amy Policky is a board member of the Rapid City area School District. She wants to ensure teacher salaries remain competitive moving forward.

“We need to clarify how the half cent sales tax will be used each year in the future. From what I understand now, it does not go into the schools each year, but every three years when they re-evaluate teacher salary compared to the surrounding states. I think the tax payer is confused by that because the tax increase was to fund education. And from what I’ve heard today, I think that money  is at risk of going into the general fund and not being available in three years when we will need to increase teacher’s salaries again,” says Policky.

Officials say any piece of legislation as comprehensive as the education package is expected to need adjustments as it takes effect.