Following Noem Speech, SD Educators Press for Funding Increase
Thursday, December 9, 2021
PIERRE, S.D. - South Dakota's teachers' union says while there are still a lot of unknowns, it's hopeful the governor's new budget proposal leads to pay increases for teachers and support staff.
This week, Gov. Kristi Noem suggested a 6% increase in school district aid, with the idea of that money going toward higher pay for staff.
Loren Paul, president of the South Dakota Education Association, said schools still are struggling with a shortage of not only teachers, but also paraprofessionals, bus drivers, custodians and food workers.
And now, districts have to compete with other industries looking to boost pay to fill their vacant positions.
"And we're still trying to hire somebody at $12 and $13 an hour," said Paul. "So this is really needed to get some of those wages up so we can compete. "
As for teachers, South Dakota recently fell back to 50th in the nation when it comes to state-by-state pay rankings. Paul said it's expected that some lawmakers will push for smaller increases in state aid when the Legislature debates budget issues early next year.
The association stresses that even if the 6% increase is adopted by the state, districts do have discretion to spend the aid in other areas. Paul said many are feeling budget pressure in other ways.
"The cost of natural gas is gonna go up, and that costs the school districts more and everything," said Paul. "So I mean they have other overheads to worry about."
But he said the shortage of educators facing most school districts will make it harder for them to operate their buildings. He said he hopes that argument will convince school boards to boost wages if the state comes through with higher funding levels.
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