South Dakota educators react to 2018 pay raise

Published: Mar. 22, 2018 at 7:53 PM CDT
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South Dakota lawmakers will head out to Pierre Monday to officially close out the 2018 Legislative Session.

A tighter state budget was one of the biggest hurdles for lawmakers this year, but South Dakota's teachers will see some increase in pay.

"I believe our teachers have probably the most important job there is in society and the world today is teaching our youth," Platte-Geddes High School Principal Patrick Frederick said.

After a big victory for South Dakota teachers in 2016 with a sales tax increase for education, school administrators said they were just hoping the state could keep up with inflation this session.

"Going in we were talking zeros on everything, no body was going to get any increases any place," Rep. Lee Qualm of Platte said.

But lawmakers started 2018 with a projected budget much lower than expected.

"As we came into session, nothing was the projection," Sen. Brock Greenfield of Clark said.

"They were discussing be happy with what we were going to get," Frederick said.

A surprise surge in revenues helped lawmakers pass a one percent raise for teachers in the state.

"Obviously, it would have been good if we could have done a little more, but I think everyone felt good with what we could do to give them that one percent," Qualm said.

Lawmakers also allocated a one time sum for teachers, bringing the total raise up to 1.7 percent, in line with the current low inflation rate.

"I was certainly happy we were able to secure more funding for education," Greenfield said. "Two years ago we passed the funding formula change and provided additional dollars for education. We would have been derelict in our duties, had we not provided the additional dollars for education in order to keep them up with other states and meet our statutory requirement."

"It's better than nothing," Frederick said. "Would I have liked to see it be more? Yes, I would. You're going to increase that morale with paying them more, they're going to feel more valued."

When the teacher pay law passed in 2016, the goal was to get the average teacher salary to $48,500, but the average teachers salary in 2017 was $45,600.

The on percent raise this year has increased that target salary to just over $49,000.