South Dakota school districts are encouraged by Governor Kristi Noem’s plans for education spending in 2020. During her budget address in Pierre Wednesday, Noem called for a 2.5 percent increase.
Noem’s proposed increase is higher than the 2.3 percent boost outgoing Governor Dennis Daugaard called for in his budget address in December. Administrators and teachers in Harrisburg say the bigger budget will help attract and retain more teachers in South Dakota.
Teaching in South Dakota often comes with out-of-pocket expenses.
“I teach kindergarten, so I buy a lot of craft supplies; sometimes I’ll buy like classroom games,” Faythe Yerdon said.
Yerdon has taught in Harrisburg for 19 years. So she’s experienced cycles of lean education budgets.
“It’s kind of a roller-coaster being a teacher in South Dakota. You just always hope for the best when it comes to education funding and you know there has been disappointments in the past,” Yerdon said.
Most of the proposed education funding increase will go to teacher salaries. But school superintendents point out that other states are also bumping-up their teacher pay, as well.
“I don’t know if we can ever say that we caught everybody that is around us and other states with teacher pay. What we did was wonderful, grateful for what was done, but the other people in the race, they didn’t stay at the starting line; they kept giving raises, too,” Harrisburg School Superintendent Jim Holbeck said.
Yerdon says Governor Noem’s proposed increase not only helps teachers, but also the students in their classrooms.
“They have the tools that they need, and they can find the jobs that they need within the state. I think it makes our state stronger,” Yerdon said.
Last year, the legislature approved a 1.7-percent education funding increase, but a portion of that was one-time money. Holbeck says he hopes the legislature can avoid those temporary fixes by making spending increases permanent.