PIERRE — Raising the state sales tax appears to have partially solved the problem of low pay for teachers in South Dakota. Gov. Dennis Daugaard's administration released preliminary data Thursday showing the average salary for a teacher in a public school rose to $46,924. This is an increase of 11.9 percent above the $41,940 average last year, but still short of the governor's goal of $48,500. The Legislature last winter agreed with the governor's proposal to increase the sales tax to 4.5 percent from 4 percent.
PIERRE — Gov. Dennis Daugaard plans to appoint a new commissioner of finance and management at some point after his budget speech next month to the Legislature, his chief of staff said Thursday. Tony Venhuizen said the former commissioner, Jason Dilges, was placed on indefinite administrative leave "pending a final decision on his status." The change took place last week after an internal review. Staff members in the Bureau of Finance and Management were told that Dilges wouldn't be returning.
PIERRE — The South Dakota Railroad Board agreed to terms Wednesday with Dakota Southern Railway on a 10-year lease to restore regular service on a segment of the state-owned line between Napa and Platte. The contract will cover the track between Napa and Ravinia, which is the first stop west of Wagner. The immediate emphasis is delivering service to Tabor so grain can be shipped. Dakota Southern chief Mike Williams promised the board he would start replacing ties next week.
SIOUX FALLS — The South Dakota Board of Education approved another degree offering for technical institutes Tuesday. It will be a two-year degree for those students with sufficient general education credits, but without the needed credits within one discipline. It is called an associate of applied science degree in technical studies. The institute where the student earned at least 25 percent of the necessary credits would issue the degree.
SIOUX FALLS — The South Dakota Board of Education decided Tuesday to proceed with public hearings on a complete rewrite of the state's certification regulations for teachers, administrators and other school personnel. The hearings will be at the board's meetings Jan. 19 in Pierre and March 20 in Aberdeen. The board vote was 8-0 to propose the changes. The project took more than two years of work, state Education Secretary Melody Schopp said. She asked for two hearings because of the importance and the scope.
SIOUX FALLS — The University of South Dakota is charting a new path nationally with its one-year residency program for student teachers in elementary schools, USD's dean of education said Tuesday. Donald Easton-Brooks said principals and other administrators like the longer residency because having co-teachers in classrooms requires working together and allows more attention to individual students.
PIERRE — South Dakota's court system received hundreds of thousands of dollars owed by criminal offenders after the state's new debt office opened last summer. Greg Sattizahn, administrator for the South Dakota Unified Judicial System, reported on the progress during a meeting Monday with a state oversight council on prison reforms. He said offenders couldn't be kept on probation solely to pressure them to continue paying restitution, fees and fines.
PIERRE — One of the bright spots Tuesday night was the realization that South Dakota Democrats have Dan Ahlers returning to our state's capitol. One of the low spots was the realization that South Dakota Republicans would be losing Roger Hunt at our state's capitol. Ahlers, D-Dell Rapids, was a legislator for four years in the previous decade. He served in the House of Representatives for the 2007-2008 term and in the Senate for the 2009-2010 term. He turns 43 Nov. 14.
PIERRE —The seating charts need to be changed in both chambers of the South Dakota Legislature after Tuesday's elections. Republicans gained two seats in the Senate and two seats in the House of Representatives. Those victories increase the Republicans-Democrats ratios to 29-6 in the Senate and 60-10 in the House. Winning one of the Senate seats was Rep. John Wiik, R-Big Stone City. He defeated former legislator Kathy Tyler, D-Big Stone City, for the District 4 slot that was held by the retiring Sen. Jim Peterson, D-Revillo.
PIERRE — The corruptions that have stained state government in the past decade evidently became too much for a majority of South Dakota voters in Tuesday's general elections. Initiated Measure 22 won by more than 11,300 votes statewide, even though it failed in 42 of South Dakota's 66 counties. Its stated purpose on page 1 is "to increase accountability to the people of South Dakota in electoral politics and to combat government corruption and its appearance."