Teacher Compensation Review Board moves towards new recommendations

The state Teacher Compensation Review Board is moving ahead with creating recommendations for the state legislature and governor’s office to review.
Published: Aug. 24, 2023 at 6:19 PM CDT
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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (Dakota News Now) - The state Teacher Compensation Review Board is moving ahead with creating recommendations for the state legislature and governor’s office to review, before the next legislative session.

In it’s second meeting earlier this week, the board approved a recommendation to add in it’s final report that would direct the South Dakota Department of Education to create an updated teacher salary/compensation accountability model, which aims to enhance average teacher salaries at the district and state levels.

Currently, the state formula calls for a funding increase for state education either at the rate of inflation or at three percent, whichever is lower. But the state legislature the past few years has amended that rule to provide bigger increases to school districts, trying to help them offset increasing costs while staying competitive for teacher salaries.

The recommendation to try and create a more accountable system received praise from the educator groups listening on the meeting, noting that this has been a goal of theirs’ to help increase the amount of money going directly to teachers.

“We think that accountability is important if we want to make sure in moving teacher salaries and teacher compensation forward. So we do think that it is a good recommendation,” South Dakota Education Association Government Relations and Communications Director Sandra Waltman said.

But another topic that board members couldn’t come to an agreement on was how to address overhead costs that school districts see, with members mentioning that they will try and address it again at their third and final meeting.

The current model calls for around 39 percent of every $100 that a school district receives to help pay for overhead costs, while the rest is meant to go towards salaries. But because of inflation and increasing costs, school districts are having to dip into that salary share more and more to help pay for those bills.

“It’s almost like insuring the financial integrity of the things that you want to do in the raise, that becomes the vehicle that helps that happen. You’ve got to include that math in those considerations,” Associated Schools Boards of South Dakota Executive Director Doug Wermedal said.

The aim of trying to change how those overhead costs are addressed would be so that the state legislature and school boards have a more accurate sense of how much a funding increase would actually go towards teacher compensation, rather than helping pay for those and increased costs all together. It’s a problem that schools districts of all sizes in the state are having to address, as the additional funding they receive can’t always go towards more pay.

“Truly it’s everything that you can think of. Natural gas has been a big increase for us over the years. We’ve also had a very large increase in our non-certified staff. It’s been very difficult to compete. You could be a custodian anywhere within the city, those skills are very transferable,” Aberdeen Central Superintendent and a member of the board Becky Guffin said. “The assumption has been that whatever percent the state gives, is what we give in salary increases, and we try to do that as closely as we can. But the truth of the matter is, we are paying for other things at an unprecedented number than we’ve ever paid for before.”

The board will meet one more time in mid-September, before delivering it’s final report to the state legislature and governor’s office.