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Remote District Concerned With Education Policy

March 14, 2012, 6:00 PM by Erich Schaffhauser

Remote District Concerned With Education Policy
MCLAUGHLIN, SD -

School districts across the state are reacting to the controversial education bill signed into law by Governor Dennis Daugaard.

A remote district in north-central South Dakota has its concerns. McLaughlin’s secondary principal fears it won't have the impact on her district that leaders hope it has on schools statewide.

"I believe that starting salaries for teachers is the most important thing that money should be channeled to," Lisa Bielawski said.

Bielawski's concerns lie in the low-base salary for teachers compared with other states. She fears quality teachers will tend to leave South Dakota for that reason and the remaining ones will tend to pick districts other than hers. The McLaughlin school sits in a remote and economically-stressed area.

"I have 11 new teachers this year right out of college. I don't know how I'm going to keep them for next year because our salaries are very, very low and their job is extremely challenging," Bielawski said.

That being said, there are portions of the bill the governor recently signed she likes. For example, she sees the scholarship portion offered to students going into needed teaching fields as a good recruitment tool.

She has mixed feelings about the math and science incentive pay. But it could help keep one of the McLaughlin teachers in the math department who considered leaving it for an elementary position.

"I thought about it, but with an extra bonus, it comes down to what you need to do for yourself. With a family, the extra money will be a definite bonus," Carla Sandquist said.

Still, Sandquist has mixed feelings about the bill.

However education policy is tweaked in the future, Bielawski hopes the debate doesn't move away from teachers’ base salaries.

We spoke with other schools in that area who say they're thankful for the amount of local control in the final bill the governor signed because of the unique needs in that part of the state.

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