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Teacher pay conversation continues in Capitol


A proposal to establish a minimum teacher salary floor in South Dakota continues to advance through the Capitol.

The bill has been subject to multiple potential amendments, reflecting the complicated nature of statewide teacher salary negotiations.

While the amended bill continues onto the Senate floor, lawmakers and the state education lobby describe the conversation as ongoing – and they expect more changes before it’s passed.

The proposal sets a salary floor for public school educators in South Dakota at $45,000. It also mandates teacher raises to be on a similar pace as state aid increases. For example, under the currently adopted amendment, if school districts received a four percent bump, compensation would be expected to see a two percent bump.

The bill also comes with accountability measures for school districts to ensure compliance up to and including assessing a district’s accreditation. Prime sponsor, Republican Speaker of the House Hugh Bartels, said it’s an effort to get more money into teachers’ pockets.

“It had to be true accountability," Bartels said. "We could not pass a bill that everybody complied with. If we didn’t have a standard that people would have to reach to get to, that some schools wouldn’t get to, we didn’t think it was accountability.”

Some school districts have voiced concerns over the pressures of this bill, particularly in the face of declining enrollments. One opposing voice was Rapid City School Board member Christine Stephenson, who spoke on her own behalf. She said raising teacher pay needs to come with assistance from the top-down.

“In 2022, South Dakota spent $11,564 per student," Stephenson said. "This is in comparison to North Dakota which in the same year spent $4,000 more per student. It compares to Wyoming, which spent $7,000 more. Minnesota spent $15,000, and our neighbors to the south Nebraska spent $14,000. All of those surrounding states fund schools at a rate that is approximately 30 percent more, or more.”

If this bill were to pass in its current form, school districts would have until July 1, 2026, before the new regulations go into effect.

C.J. Keene is a Rapid City-based journalist covering the legal system, education, and culture