Teacher Compensation Review Board sends final report

The final report comes as South Dakota has slipped back down the national rankings in overall average teacher pay, only ahead of Mississippi and West Virginia.
Published: Sep. 25, 2023 at 6:05 PM CDT
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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (Dakota News Now) - South Dakota’s Teacher Compensation Review Board has met for the final time this year, and their proposal to help raise teacher salaries in the state has been sent to the state legislature and Governor’s office.

The final report comes as South Dakota has slipped back down the national rankings in overall average teacher pay, only ahead of Mississippi and West Virginia. South Dakota ranks last in the Midwest, with members of the review board concerned the state could slip even further behind if nothing major is done to address the issues schools and teachers are facing. Although many noted that South Dakota is not the only state addressing a teacher shortage.

MORE: South Dakota teacher pay slipping near national bottom

“If every other state is having this problem, they’re going to raise wages too. So we need to do more to stay competitive,” Sen. David Wheeler (R-Huron) said at the board’s final meeting.

The proposals are included in the final report, that are aimed to jumpstart the effort in Pierre to close that gap.

The first is for the Department of Education to create an updated teacher compensation accountability model. That affects how teachers are paid at the district and state levels, and holds schools accountable for making sure new funding helps pay for salaries. Members of the review board unanimously passed the proposal, as it’s still based on salary figures that are over six years old.

“The current one goes off the 2017 data, and basically says that the district needs to be above their 2017 numbers. Well, it’s 2023. You’d better be above your 2017 numbers. So it’s not really having any impact now,” Department of Education Secretary Joseph Graves said in the review board’s final meeting.

The second proposal passed unanimously is to recommend the Governor’s office and lawmakers to monitor the impact of inflation, and use that data when setting the state education finance formula. This means the board is asking those lawmakers to consider rising inflation more when allocating more for education expenses. But the exact language of the proposal falls short of requiring any member of the legislative or executive branch to take any action. That, according to Sen. Jim Bolin (R-Canton) would be too tough to convince other legislators to pass.

“It would be difficult to get something like that through the appropriations committee. That would be very taxing on rest of the committee,” Bolin said.

MORE: Teacher Compensation Review Board moves towards new recommendations

The final proposal passed is to add the Department of Education’s GOAC performance indicators on as an appendix to the report. This proposal didn’t unanimously pass, but those in support of it argue that the state’s student achievement indicators and graduation rates are tied to how much teachers are compensated. Sen. Reynold Nesiba (D-Sioux Falls) said in the meeting that other neighboring states, such as Wyoming, have increased their education funding and teacher salaries to address those measurements.

“What happened in Wyoming is that they saw several years of declining performance. They used that as an agreement that they needed to pay their teachers more. They were linking performance to pay, and I think that we should be doing that as well. This is why we have these indicators,” Neisba said. “I think if we continue to underfund, and pay our teachers dead last in the region, I’m not sure that’s going to improve morale or improve performance. But investing in our teachers, investing in our system of education might be the kind of thing that turns those trends around.”

Bolin was another one of those that voted yes to add the indicators as an appendix, but cautioned that those measurements won’t be immediately affected by any drastic increase in funding.

“It’s not like we would pay more, and then two years later we’re going to see a better result. It’s such a long process to bring that about in any meaningful way,” Bolin said.

The final report will be sent to the Governor’s office and state legislature to be acted on in the next session in Pierre. The Teacher Compensation Review Board will next meet in 2025, starting the process over again.