Teacher pay: Big hikes needed over five years to reach neighboring state pay, official says

Capitol News Bureau

PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — The top official for the Associated School Boards of South Dakota raised a big question Tuesday to the state Teacher Compensation Review Board.

Wade Pogany asked whether South Dakota has tried hard enough to be competitive on K-12 teacher salaries, which ranked third-lowest in the nation at $50,572 last year.

He pointed to two neighboring states.

The Legislature would need to increase state aid to South Dakota schools by 3.9% a year, for five years, to catch North Dakota, he said. Matching Nebraska would take 8.1% more a year, for five years.

Pogany contrasted those numbers with South Dakota’s past five state-aid increases: 0.3%, 1.0%, 2.5%, 2.0% and 2.4%.

South Dakota by law limits state-aid increases to the lesser of 3% or the rate of inflation.

Pogany said he didn’t want to discuss even-larger increases needed to get in step with Iowa and Minnesota. He said South Dakota on Monday had 102 teacher openings, a week before students return to many schools, up from 40 on the similar date last year.

The board is assembling a report due no later than September 30 to the Legislature and governor. State law requires the board to meet every three years and look at teacher compensation, including comparable wage indexes, in surrounding states.

Establishing the board in 2016 was one of the ways that then-Governor Dennis Daugaard wanted the Legislature to keep attention on teacher salaries.

Lawmakers raised the state sales tax by one-half percent, to 4.5%, at his suggestion after his blue-ribbon task force spent 2015 studying teacher compensation. School districts received 63% — roughly $67 million — while 34% went to reducing commercial property taxes and 3% was earmarked for instructors’ pay at technical campuses.

The board on Tuesday received a report that followed up on questions raised at the July 16 meeting and a report from a state Department of Education summit August 4 on how to use more federal coronavirus aid.

State Education Secretary Tiffany Sanderson said her staff will prepare a draft report and circulate it to board members September 16. The board will meet September 22 to make any changes and approve the final version.

“I promise to give honest feedback,” the chair, Representative Scott Odenbach, said.

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