ABERDEEN, S.D. (Dakota News Now) – Governor Kristi Noem’s proposed increase of state aid for education went down from Fiscal Year (FY) 2023 to FY 2024.
According to a report by Stu Whitney from South Dakota News Watch, this is a cause of concern for the future of teachers in South Dakota.
Noem proposed a 5% increase in state aid to education for the 2024 FY as part of her $7.2 billion budget plan, on the heels of a 6% increase the year prior.
That would put $24 million in new money into public schools for the 2023-24 school year, 44% less than the nearly $43 million in new funding allocated in the 2022-23 school year, according to the Associated School Boards of South Dakota. School districts can determine how much to allocate for salaries, but the money is also needed for expenses such as utility costs, food services, transportation, technology and extracurricular activities.
According to the National Education Association, South Dakota’s average teacher salary of $49,547 ranks 50th in the nation. While school districts can allocate state toward increasing teacher salaries, the funds are also needed for expenses such as technology, transportation, food services and extracurricular activities.
Representative Linda Duba of Sioux Falls says that the proposed budget won’t do the current teacher salaries many favors.
“An element of trust and respect has been lost. There are a lot of like-minded folks who understand what undervaluing teachers and setting low-budget targets has done to state education over the last four or five years,” said Duba.
South Dakota News Watch reported that there were 176 teacher openings statewide in December of 2022, which is up 37% from December of 2021.
“We’re getting calls from schools looking for teachers in the middle of the year. These are unprecedented times, and it seems like elementary education is one of the biggest needs,” said Amy Schweinle, the Dean of the University of South Dakota’s School of Education.
South Dakota News Watch cites below-average salaries, difficulties from the COVID-19 pandemic and the politicization of education as just a few causes for teachers leaving their positions.
“In our own state, too many leaders have sown seeds of distrust, fear, and cynicism in our public education system and its teachers, which hurts recruiting and retention,” said Gina Benz, an English teacher at Roosevelt High School in Sioux Falls.
You can read the full report here.
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