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Rapid City School District Grapples With Teacher Pay

Kenzie Wagner

The Rapid City Board of Education is deciding how to spend the extra one half cent sales tax revenue state lawmakers allocated to school districts.  The board held a special meeting Wednesday after the local teachers union rejected its initial contract offer. 

Officials with the Rapid City teachers union say they’re frustrated after the Rapid City Board of Education’s vote on teacher salary.

The local school board wants to use the new state funding to raise new teacher salaries to $40,000, increasing by $2,000 increments for five years.  Veteran teachers making over $50,000 dollars would see a $3,000 dollar raise, and could see more depending on future funding.
The point of contention for some is the lack of money going toward teachers who hold a master’s degree or higher.
Sue Podoll  is the president of the education association. She says the board’s decision could harm future retaining efforts.  
“I think there’s maybe an unintended consequence where they’ll get that advanced degree and jump our district to move to one that awards rewards that advanced degree. We’re all about recruiting but we also need to work to retain the individuals that we put the time and resources, and support into to help them become better teachers. We want to keep them here,” says Podoll.
But Board of Education President Jim Hansen says that the proposal works with what the state of South Dakota gave the districts and that the main point of the law is to increase starting teacher’s salaries.
“And the fact of the matter is it’s to provide the teachers that are below midpoint. There are hundreds of employees by the district that the state didn’t cover, but we are covering it, we have dug in very deep to our capital outlay to provide them. And three thousand dollars for those teachers go as my friends that work for the county, who get nothing, three thousand’s pretty good raise,” says Hansen.
The disputed proposal now goes to the South Dakota Department of Labor. If the outcome is approved, the contract will start for the 2016-2017 school year.