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SD teacher salaries jump 8.8 percent in 2017

School supply photo illustration. (Matt Gade/Republic)

As South Dakota works to boost teacher pay, the Mitchell School District is reaping the rewards of higher-than-average salaries for its educators.

The average teacher salary jumped 8.8 percent between fiscal years 2016 and 2017, according to the South Dakota Department of Education, reaching $45,625 compared to $41,940. The state's goal is to reach a statewide salary average of $48,500.

"This is good news," said South Dakota Gov. Dennis Daugaard. "We knew that it would take some time to meet the target salary goal, and schools are making great progress in that direction already. I'm confident this upward trend will continue in the years to come."

In 2016, the South Dakota Legislature implemented a half-percent sales tax increase, with its revenue to be put toward teacher salaries.

The increase provided the Mitchell district with enough funds to give all 196 teachers a $6,000 salary increase in 2016, Superintendent Joe Graves said.

In Mitchell, where teacher salaries increased from $50,700 to $51,373 in 2017, Graves said the district has seen an increase in applications for open teaching positions with higher-quality teachers applying.

"The governor's initiative to significantly increase teacher salaries in South Dakota has been a boon for teachers and students as well," Graves said. "... I suspect as well that we now have more people going into education and that we are more competitive with the states around us for teachers in all program levels and content areas."

Secretary of Education Melody Schopp said other steps forward included teacher recruitment and retention. For school year 2017-18, a statewide mentoring program served 356 new teachers in districts across South Dakota, with 279 teachers providing guidance.

But Schopp said the increased teacher salaries has had a positive impact, too.

"Beyond the data, I have heard anecdotally from a number of educators that the increase in teacher salaries has boosted morale," Schopp said.

A district-by-district breakdown of teacher compensation for fiscal year 2017 will be available Friday.