SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — A bill on the way to Governor Noem’s desk aims to increase state aid for education by 7.1% percent.

Noem originally recommended 5%, but the joint committee on appropriations approved the higher amount Thursday. It includes nearly $39.5 million in new funding for K-12 education.

Baltic School District superintendent, Bob Sittig, and Brandon Valley School District superintendent, Jarod Larson, says their main focus with the increase would target teacher pay.

It’s a percentage increase that’s over double what is required by South Dakota law.

“The law really only required them to do 3%. We were first of all appreciative of Governor Noem when she proposed 5%, but hopeful, because inflation was really more like 8%, that we could get more than the 5% even. And so 7%, to me, is a really good increase, and we’re really appreciative for that,” Sittig said.

If approved, Sittig says the increase will help address the shortage of teachers and other support staff.

“In order to attract good people, I think we need to pay a competitive wage, and so I think that’s why the funding is really important so that we can pay to get good people,” Sittig said.

The proposed increase came as somewhat of a surprise.

“I never really expected to get 7-8% increases, because that just didn’t happen many years ago. So no, I didn’t expect it but really hoped for it, and like I said, appreciative that the legislature was able to do that for us,” Sittig said.

Larson appreciates the work done in Pierre to prioritize public education.

“The increase is going to be incredibly valuable to our staff as we work to drive teacher compensation forward, as well as increased compensation for support staff as well,” Larson said.

He says the number one factor in student achievement is having quality teachers and staff.

“That includes retaining and recruiting. Compensation is obviously a critical factor in that work, so this increase will certainly help us put those dollars in the hands of our teachers and put the best teachers possible in front of our students,” Larson said.

Senate bill 24, which provides the seven percent increase in state aid and revises the property tax levies for school districts, sets the state’s target teacher salary at around $59,700.

You can also see the full bill that appropriates funds for the the Fiscal Year 2024 general fund.