YANKTON, S.D. (KELO) — Teachers in the Yankton School District will see a 7% increase in pay for the 2023-24 school year. 

The Yankton School Board voted 5-0 to approve a negotiation between the Yankton Education Association for the 7% increase. At Tuesday’s meeting, Yankton Superintendent Dr. Wayne Kindle said discussions for a new contract for teachers lasted one night. 

The base pay for a teacher with no prior teaching experience and a Bachelor’s degree is $48,792 in the Yankton School District. According to the South Dakota Department of Education, average baseline pay for teachers in the state was $41,113 for the 2021-22 school year.

Board member Sarah Carda said the board wants to show how much it appreciates teachers.

“When we have it in our budget, we will reward them with what we have,” Carda said. “I hope that teachers really do see how much we appreciate them and compensation is one of those ways we do that.”  

The 7% raise comes after a 6% raise in the 2022-23 school year contract

The action by the Yankton School Board comes after the South Dakota Legislature passed and Gov. Kristi Noem signed Senate Bill 24. That bill included nearly $39.5 million in new funding for K-12 education from Noem’s original budget recommendation. How the money is used is up to local school boards.

School superintendents and education officials said higher teacher pay would help address teacher shortages and other school staff.  

Data used by the National Education Association ranked South Dakota as the second-lowest for average teacher pay, only ahead of Mississippi. During a meeting with state lawmakers on the Joint Committee on Appropriations, Secretary of Education Joe Graves said there was clearly a teacher shortage in South Dakota.

Other school districts following suit

At a public forum for superintendents from Brandon Valley, Harrisburg, Sioux Falls and Tea Area, education officials discussed challenges ranging from teacher pay, vaping and student attendance. 

Harrisburg Superintendent Tim Graf said the bump in education funding from the state will be impactful to help teachers and other open school positions. 

“We’re all trying to find those staff members,” Graf said. “That increase really allows us to stay competitive to do that.” 

Tea Area Superintendent Jennifer Lowry said she was nervous about Noem’s initial proposed 5% increase to education funding. 

“When the 7% increase came in, it was a huge blessing,” Lowry said. “We moved those dollars straight to our staff.” 

Lowry said starting teacher pay in Tea has jumped from $38,000 to $51,000 in three years. 

“That’s a sizable jump,” Lowry said.

Sioux Falls School District Superintendent Jane Stavem pointed to vaping and attendance as the two issues keeping her awake at night. 

“Get up, dress up and show up,” Stavem said about attendance. “How do we continue to hold kids and families accountable for getting to school? Nothing good is going to happen if they aren’t in the classroom.”