Education leaders weigh in on Governor’s budget proposal

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In 2016, the Blue Ribbon Task Force’s vision became law, promising better pay for South Dakota teachers. 

Now, just a few years after the celebration, Governor Kristi Noem’s budget proposal does not include raises for teachers.

In her latest budget proposal, Governor Kristi Noem says state revenue is tight, and prediction state revenue will get tighter in the coming year.

According to the law passed a couple of years ago, the legislature is supposed to increase state aid to public school districts by three percent or the rate of inflation, whichever is lower. The state has come up short in the past. 

The latest talk of teacher pay brings Erica Boomsma back to 2016.

“We saw our state and knew they believed in us. Our citizens believed in us. They took on an extra tax for us,” Boomsma said.

Not only does she teach 4th grade in the Huron School District, but she’s also South Dakota’s 2019 Teacher of the Year.

Boomsma calls the past legislation a game changer.

“Now, I believe it’s very important that we continue in the direction we’re on now because it was a big moment for all of us and the rate of inflation is a part of that,” Boomsma said.

Huron School District’s Superintendent is also the president of the South Dakota School Superintendents Association.

“The governor has to propose a balanced budget proposal. That’s her constitutional responsibility, so I understand she’s in that role. The legislature has to pass a budget, and as superintendents our job is to advocate for our kids and teachers,” Nebelsick said.

The Superintendents Association issued a statement this week, calling on the legislature to meet the two percent cost of living factor.

“It’s very complicated as they try to do their work and we try to make people understand we don’t want to go back to where we were before all the work on the half penny, etc.,” Nebelsick said.

Boomsma is encouraged that people are talking about the issue.

“I think it’s a start of a great conversation that I know administrators want to have, and I know our representatives, I know our governor wants to have it. I know that teachers in South Dakota want to have that conversation too, so I think this is the beginning of a good conversation,” Boomsma said.

In addition to teacher salaries, Governor Noem says she also could not recommend inflationary increases for Medicaid providers or state employee salaries. 

Her proposal does include additional funding to pay for an expected 1,000 more students statewide and special education.

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