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Teacher salary minimum bill passes legislature

A new model for teacher compensation has reached the governors’ desk.

After a full session of debate, both chambers have agreed on a package that will gradually raise teacher pay and establish a statewide minimum salary.

The base salary for educators in South Dakota will be set at a minimum of $45,000 a year. School districts will have until fiscal year 2025 to enter compliance before the clock starts ticking.

Following failure to comply, districts face consequences up to and including assessment of accreditation.

Sandra Waltman with the South Dakota Education Association said it’s a step in the right direction.

“This bill, while it’s not the perfect bill, I think is going to help us increase teacher salaries and make the profession of teaching more affordable to young people between the minimum salary and ensuring there will be annual increases that keep up with the state increases is good news for the teacher of South Dakota,” Waltman said.

There are concerns orbiting the bill though. Namely, the potential impact on district employment with such stringent regulations.

Scotland Republican Sen. Kyle Schoenfish said the conversation is far from over.

“We did good work to get to where we’re at, I just think there’s going to be some unintended consequences down the road," Schoenfish said. "We’re going to be monitoring this very closely over the next few years to, first of all, see if it works, and to see if there’s anything that’s going to need to be tweaked to make sure we’re not causing any more harm.”

But for Burbank Republican Sen. Sydney Davis, the bill needs teeth to be effective.

“We felt there was a need for an accountability measure, and what came out of this conference committee is something I think is a good product of the negotiations between the administration, both chambers of the Capitol, and stakeholders in place to still provide schools flexibility to make these accountability measures and comply with them but yet still fulfill that promise to our teachers,” Davis said.

The bill now heads to the governor’s desk.

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