A column by Gov. Dennis Daugaard
This week, the South Dakota State Legislature gave final passage to House Bill 1182. This important legislation directs approximately $70 million to significant pay increases for our public school teachers, as well as instructors at the state’s technical institutes. The bill also directs nearly $40 million to property tax relief.
I proposed this bill in response to the report of the Blue Ribbon Task Force. Over the past year, the task force undertook an extensive process of seeking public input, analyzing data and crafting policy proposals. The task force concluded that South Dakota needed to take bold action, this year, to avoid a teacher shortage. That required new money to increase teacher pay.
Great schools require great teachers and this plan will allow our state to recruit the next generation of great teachers. Our state will increase our salaries to be competitive with surrounding states, and South Dakota teachers will no longer be paid 51st in the nation.
Two other bills are a part of this package. Senate Bill 131 reforms our school funding formula to increase transparency and accountability. The new formula will be based on a statewide target average teacher salary of $48,500 and on target student-to-teacher ratios for each school. This bill also makes other important reforms, including the imposition of caps on school reserve funds and new limits on the growth of property taxes for capital outlay. It is important that, as we make a significant investment of new money into schools, we also ensure that the funding formula furthers our goal of providing an excellent education to every young person in this state.
Senate Bill 133 encourages schools to become more efficient by creating new opportunities for schools to share resources and to use services such as the e-Learning Center at Northern State. Creating efficiency allows schools to focus more funding on teacher salaries. The bill also makes it easier for certified teachers in other states to come to South Dakota.
All three bills are important. South Dakota is increasing teacher pay, making our funding formula more transparent and fair, and making schools more efficient.
House Bill 1182 was adopted by a bipartisan coalition in each house, passing with a two-thirds vote and a majority of Republicans and Democrats. It represents the strong support of all South Dakotans for our schools.