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South Dakota teacher wages are some of the lowest in the nation, data says

South Dakota teachers have the second lowest pay in the nation, according to data provided by the NEA. Only Mississippi trails the Rushmore state.
The Waverly-South Shore school district is struggling to find applicants for open positions....
(Dakota News Now)
Published: Oct. 13, 2021 at 7:56 PM MDT
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PIERRE, S.D. - The issue of how much South Dakota educators make is back in the spotlight again.

The National Education Association (NEA) released data showing that South Dakota has the second lowest wages for teachers in the nation, only ahead of Mississippi.

These latest findings come amongst efforts to raise those wages over the last several years.

“Our educators in the state aren’t different than anyone else, they have to survive,” said Loren Paul, South Dakota Educators Association (SDEA) President. SDEA is the state’s affiliate of the NEA.

Former Governor Dennis Daugaard created the “Blue Ribbon Task Force” with the intent of raising teacher pay, reforming school funding, and creating programs to help schools operate more efficiently. While the task force has helped the state close the gap in terms of teacher pay, it hasn’t been enough to catch up.

“In 2016, we had the half penny sales tax, and we were #47 for a while after that,” said Paul. “We were making head way nationally, and over time, we have lost that head way.”

Paul explains that neighboring states such as Montana, Wyoming, and North Dakota have been able to pay teachers more because of the oil and natural gas boom in those states over the course of the last several years.

“The good news is we have ground ‘locally,’ compared to those ‘neighboring’ states. We have gained ground on them, but we have not overtaken them.”

With lower teacher pay, recruitment and retention of teachers only becomes more difficult.

However, South Dakota Secretary of Education Tiffany Sanderson pointed out at a recent committee meeting of the “Teacher Compensation Review Board” that investments are being made, and the work is being done to continue to close the gap.

“Between the 2014 school year and the most recent data, we are the second highest state in the country in terms of the amount that the state has put into teacher salaries,” Sanderson said to the committee. “Washington has increased their teacher salaries by 44%, which is far ahead of anyone else, but South Dakota has increased theirs by 22% (since 2014).”

South Dakota News Watch: Despite sales tax hike, average teacher pay in South Dakota returns to near bottom in nation

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