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Legislators locate $2.2 million to give teachers an extra bump

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Legislators locate $2.2 million to give teachers an extra bump
Mitchell South Dakota 120 South Lawler 57301

PIERRE -- The Legislature suspended its rules Friday night to give school districts an additional $2.2 million in state aid to spend on teacher salaries in the coming year.

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Lawmakers still haven't fully refilled the cut from 2011, however.

The 3.3 percent increase for the coming year will take state aid per student to $4,781.14. School boards sought $4,804.60 to get back to the pre-cut amount. The $2.2 million came on top of the 3 percent increase that Gov. Dennis Daugaard had recommended.

"That's something to be proud of," Senate Republican leader Tim Rave of Baltic said.

A legislative study committee submitted a resolution at the start of the 2014 session stating South Dakota had a teacher shortage.

Senate Republicans killed it in January without saying a word against it. But the two parties came together Friday night to approve the extra money 35-0.

"It's nice to know you did hear us about the need," Sen. Chuck Welke, D-Warner, said. "Unfortunately all our ideas were killed and we were told at the time there was not enough evidence."

In the House, Rep. Justin Cronin said a letter of intent might be needed to ensure school districts use the money for teacher salaries.

"This is a step in the right direction," said Cronin, R-Gettysburg. "It will make a difference."

South Dakota would need to pay its teachers an additional $2,800 apiece to pull ahead of Mississippi into 49th place among the 50 states, according to House Democratic leader Bernie Hunhoff of Yankton.

"I think we're starting to recognize there is a problem," Hunhoff said.

House members voted 69-0 for the extra money. Teachers will receive approximately $220 apiece in their base pay if the $2.2 million is evenly distributed.

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