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School districts want teachers-pay waivers

School supply photo illustration. (Matt Gade/Republic)

PIERRE — Come Thursday and Friday, 26 of South Dakota's public school districts will send officials to state government's School Finance Accountability Board.

The local representatives want to explain why their districts didn't meet thresholds the Legislature set for teacher compensation as part of a new formula intended to boost pay.

In that same 2016 legislative session, lawmakers increased the rate of South Dakota's sales and use tax to 4.5 percent, from the 4 percent it had been since 1969.

The revenue from the tax increase provided money for raises. South Dakota ranked last in the nation for teacher pay.

Legislators set several criteria for spending the additional money:

• Each district's increase in average teacher compensation from fiscal year 2016 to 2017 shall be equal to at least 85 percent of the district's increase in local need; and

• At least 85 percent of the increase in state aid to general education funding shall be used to increase instructional salaries and benefits for certified instructional staff.

Thirty-six didn't make the cut this year.

Of those, Lead-Deadwood and Elk Mountain districts didn't receive state aid. Of the remaining 34, eight automatically received approval of waivers they requested because they met conditions the accountability board set Oct. 19.

The board said state government's Department of Education could grant a waiver if a district missed both accountabilities by 0.5 percent or less, or met one of the accountabilities and came within 0.5 percent on the other.

That left 26 facing the possible penalty of losing half of their additional state aid for the coming school year.

The state board will make recommendations on what should happen to each of them. The final decision comes in December when a legislative committee says yes or no to each one.

The waiver hearings Thursday and Friday start each day at 8:30 a.m. at the Capitol.

In the first group Thursday are Highmore-Harrold, Jones County and White River. At 10 a.m. are Kimball, Plankinton, Corsica-Stickney and Herreid.

The Thursday afternoon lineups at 1 p.m. are Clark, Willow Lake, Henry and Canistota and at 3 p.m. will be Wall, New Underwood, Gayville-Volin and Garretson.

Friday morning starts at 8:30 with Gettysburg, Faulkton Area and Bowdle, followed by a 10 a.m.group of Edmunds Central, Hitchcock-Tulare, Doland and Faith.

The Friday afternoon hearings start at 1 p.m. for McLaughlin, Newell, Summit and Sisseton.

The accountability board's agenda calls for the members to present a summary of their decisions at 3 p.m. Friday. The meeting is in room 412.

Members are Huron Superintendent Terry Nebelsick, Belle Fourche schools business manager Susan Proefrock, Mobridge-Pollock school board member Eric Stroeder, Brandon Valley superintendent Jarod Larson and governor's aide Patrick Weber.

To listen by phone, call 1-866-410-8397 and dial 521-468-2374.

All 34 districts, including the eight that received department waivers, would face final approvals from the 18 Senate and House members who comprise the Joint Committee on Appropriations, according to Mary Stadick Smith, a state Department of Education official.

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