Members of the Senate Education Committee passed a bill allowing school districts to recruit or retain teachers by providing certain financial incentives. It authorizes a school district to offer a signing bonus, moving expenses, or tuition reimbursement.
Proponents of Senate Bill 132 say it gives school districts flexibility and allows more options as they work to fill open teaching positions. Wade Pogany is the Executive Director of the Associated School Boards of South Dakota.
“You know given the current situation with the amount of teachers that we have in our pool and the fewer teachers that we have in our pool, school districts are really trying everything they can, every opportunity they can to recruit and retain teachers,” Pogany says. “Giving management some tools that we need to hire really improves our chances of trying to recruit the quality teachers that we need.”
But opponents say the bill doesn’t address the overarching issues that have led to the teacher shortage. Mary McCorkle is President of the South Dakota Education Association. She takes issue with section four of the bill, which says if a teacher is employed in a school district and is offered a teaching position elsewhere, the district currently employing the teacher may offer him or her a salary up to or equal the amount offered by the other district. The bill also says that the school district is not required to negotiate with the teacher’s designated collective bargaining representative in this matter.
“Section one through three incentives are already being offered across the state,” McCorkle says. “Section four creates a division in schools, pitting teacher against teacher, teacher against administrators, and district against district as one district works to lure one teacher from another. It rejects teacher voices and tells them they’re not a necessary part of the process. Our students need real solutions to ensure that they have high quality teachers in their classrooms.”
Committee members voted four to one to pass Senate Bill 132. It now heads to the Senate floor for further debate.