Teachers across the state are learning what their raises will be starting next school year.

The Legislature passed a sales tax increase that will kick in next month to collect more money to help boost teacher pay.

Some teachers are getting $4,000 raises; some $6,000 or more. 

With more money on its way from the State, optimism has been surrounding negotiations between school boards and teachers this year.

In Aberdeen, there was even a little surprise mixed into the process. Teachers put in their ask. The board came with its offer.

“They were actually higher than what the negotiating group came in [with],” Aberdeen Education Association President Kerry Konda said.

The Aberdeen School Board wound up putting three percent raises on the table and topped that off with an additional increase of $4,500 per teacher. Starting pay in the district is up to $39,500. 

Kerry Konda represents the teacher union in Aberdeen. In addition to salary, he says, benefits were important to its members. 

The law sending more money to schools requires a large chunk of the extra money to go toward teachers, but other positions also make up the union he represents.

“We have counselors. We have nurses. We have support staff that are in that, that don’t apply to the State law. So we had to make sure that whatever we gave the teachers under State law had to also be applied to them,” Konda said.

Smaller schools around Aberdeen are coming up with different salary schedules.
Leola approved $6,500 raises, which gets it within a few thousand dollars of Aberdeen’s starting pay.

Warner’s starting salary went up to $37,000, and the district is also giving its current teachers a $6,500 dollar raise.

“We feel like we’ve got a chance to lure some quality candidates to our district with that, with that pay,” Warner Superintendent Michael Kroll said.

Available money from the State boosted the Warner numbers, but Kroll says how its pay stacks up against surrounding schools is important.

That’s one factor which drove Huron’s school board to come up with an aggressive salary package. Its starting pay is nearly $42,000.

“There is a market that we have to be in. Teachers can shop around where they want to teach, so we have to be competitive in that market,” board president David Wheeler said.

Huron also made it a priority to hit the $48,500 average teacher salary goal set by the Legislature.

“We wanted to be part of that process. We wanted to do our part to get the average teacher pay up in South Dakota,” Wheeler said.

That target worked for Huron, but it didn’t in some districts. Aberdeen, for example, is retiring a combined 562 years of experience this year, so several teachers at the higher end of the pay scale are leaving. So despite pay increases in that district, its average teacher pay is about the same.

The way schools are structuring the salary bumps varies, as well, depending on each district’s needs. Huron’s starting pay is a lot higher than Sioux Falls, but teachers can’t build to a $50,000 annual salary as quickly as they could in Sioux Falls.

“There’s a variation in the kinds of increases we’re seeing, but no question across the board we’re seeing increases everywhere and substantial ones,” Gov. Dennis Daugaard said.

The State doesn’t have all the new teacher pay numbers compiled yet, but Governor Dennis Daugaard is happy with the reports he is hearing so far. The new law requires 85 percent of the new money to go to teachers.

“School districts have that standard they have to meet. There’s a tool online that they can use to make sure they’re meeting the standard and I’m seeing it being met by school districts all across the board,” Daugaard said.

“If you would have asked me a year ago from now, ‘Would i be able to give my teaches a $6,500 raise?’ I would have said ‘No way, they’d be lucky to get $650’ and so to give them that kind of money, it was nice, deserved and it was a nice thing to pass out to the staff,” Kroll said.