Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Inflation and employee competition major issues for state schools

South Dakota ranks 49th in the nation for average teacher salary.

As school districts struggle with increasing costs, one panel wants to know where state money is going.

Like families or businesses, all schools face stress from bills and inflation.

For two fiscal years in a row, state lawmakers gave education six and seven percent cost of living increases, respectively.

Education is receiving a seven percent increase in funding this year.

At this weeks’ meeting of the Teacher Compensation Review Board, Sioux Falls state Sen. Reynold Nesiba questioned Aberdeen superintendent Becky Guffin during the meeting about the reality of making ends meet.

“What other costs have increased that are competing for your scarce dollars coming out of the formula," Nesiba asked. "What else are you having to pay for?”

“I think the simple answer to that question is everything,” Guffin replied.

Guffin cites health insurance plan increases, natural gas costs and competition for staff as major financial challenges to her district.

In 2016, state lawmakers passed a half-penny tax increase to fund increases in teacher pay.

The teacher compensation board wants to know what percentage of state dollars goes to teacher salaries, and what goes to operational costs.

That recommendation will go to the governor and lawmakers next session. Nesiba said he wants districts to be held harmless for inflation.

“My comments would be again that target pay number should be at least adjusted for inflation from where we were in 2016, and that staff will take a look at that share going to compensation and make an appropriate adjustment related to that," Nesiba said.

That recommendation was approved unanimously. The next meeting of the board is scheduled for Sept. 15.

C.J. Keene is a Rapid City-based journalist covering the legal system, education, and culture