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South Dakota Teachers’ Salary Ranks At The Bottom

A Brookings classroom

South Dakota once again ranks 50th in the nation in teacher’s pay.  

In 2016, the Blue Ribbon Task Force under former Governor Dennis Daugaard passed a half cent increase in sales tax. The extra money went to the general education fund to help boost teachers’ salaries.  

Deb Soholt is a former state senator. She said each school district sets their own salary for teachers.  

“It’s also about what is the teaching/learning environment, how much support is there from the school district and the community,” Soholt said. “So [there are] many things that go into it, but this will always be an important priority for South Dakota.” 

Soholt said they recognize a need for an emphasis on enticing more educators to the state. That means increasing educators’ salaries to compete with surrounding states.  

The targeted increase in teacher’s pay was to reach an average of $48,500 by 2017. The state did not reach this goal until 2020. 

Jackline Sly is a former state senator. She said the task force concluded the formula for allocating education funds was flawed. The tax increase was supposed to bolster the amount of tax money allocated to government programs. 

“A lot of the decisions are made at the state level, the legislature, on the consumer price index and there were a couple years that it was only like a three-tenths percent of increase so that’s all they’re obligated to give to schools or state workers or, you know, community support providers,” Sly said. 

Sly said decisions on percentages for each year relies on the national consumer price index or a three percent rate, whichever is lower.  

The average annual teacher salary in the state is a little under $49,000. 

This story comes from a recent interview on SDPB's weekday radio program, "In the Moment." Listen to the full interview below.