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After 30 Years, SD Teacher Salaries Climb Out of Last Place

South Dakota teacher salaries increased more than in any other state during for the 2016-2017 school year. (
South Dakota teacher salaries increased more than in any other state during for the 2016-2017 school year. (
April 26, 2018

PIERRE, S.D. – The South Dakota Education Association says work will need to continue if salaries for teachers are going to stay out of last place in the nation. Teachers learned this week that after 30 years, their salaries are no longer America's lowest.

A National Education Association report says that unfortunate ranking now belongs to Mississippi, with Oklahoma and West Virginia not far behind. The report shows that South Dakota's average teacher salary increased from $42,000 annually to almost $47,000 for the 2016-2017 school year – an 11.8 percent increase.

Mary McCorkle is president of the South Dakota Education Association and says the state is moving in the right direction.

"The reality is we have to continue to look to the future,” says McCorkle. “If we don't, 48th will not be where we stay; we will slide backwards."

Salary increases were approved by the Legislature based on recommendations from the governor's Blue Ribbon Task Force and also reflect the impact of a half-penny increase to the state's sales tax.

South Dakota's teacher salary increase was the highest in the nation by far in both percentage and dollars. McCorkle says state salaries have to remain competitive or teachers will go elsewhere.

"We do an amazing job of educating future teachers in South Dakota, and we don't want them to leave and go to other states,” says McCorkle. “We should be educating future teachers for our South Dakota classrooms."

The national average for teacher salaries is slightly less than $60,000 a year. And after being ranked 51st in the nation in every annual NEA report from 1986 to 2017, McCorkle hopes South Dakota salaries will continue their upward climb.

"Just as we move, our neighboring states move also, and the goal of the Blue Ribbon Task Force was to be competitive to the states surrounding South Dakota and continued movement is necessary to be competitive,” says McCorkle.

Teachers earning the highest salaries live in Alaska, New York, Connecticut and California.

Roz Brown, Public News Service - SD