Details emerge about governor's plan for raising teachers' salaries

PIERRE -- The request from Gov. Dennis Daugaard that the Legislature raise the state sales tax by one-half cent would generate an estimated $107.4 million the first year.

PIERRE - The request from Gov. Dennis Daugaard that the Legislature raise the state sales tax by one-half cent would generate an estimated $107.4 million the first year.

He wants $63 million to be sent to public school districts as additional state aid to spend on teachers' salaries.

The goal is to increase the average pay for a South Dakota teacher to $48,500. That would be a raise of approximately $8,500 from the average salary last year.

He also proposes $40 million be spent to reduce the general-education taxes levied on property.

He would spread the tax relief across the major classes of property.


They are agricultural; owner-occupied homes; and the broad category of other, which covers almost everything else, such as commercial, business, second homes, and land and buildings that don't fall into the agricultural or owner-occupied categories.

Agricultural property and owner-occupied homes qualified for the 30 percent relief program that was established in 1995 by the Legislature at the request of then-Gov. Bill Janklow. Other property was left out.

On another school tax, Daugaard wants to repeal the pension levy that school districts charge property owners. The pension levy currently generates about $19 million for schools.

The $40 million of property-tax relief that he proposes would offset the loss of the pension levy for schools and provide approximately $20 million of additional property tax relief.

The final $5 million from the half-cent sales-tax revenue would be earmarked for a menu of other purposes:

A mentor program to help first- and second-year teachers ($1 million);

An expansion of videoconference high school classes offered from the e-learning center at Northern State University ($1 million);

Restoration of bonuses for nationally certified teachers ($150,000 the first year and $50,000 for each year after); and


State payments for school districts to share services such as purchasing and payroll, pay for software licensing and pay for shared staff (approximately $3 million).

The governor's plan generally follows recommendations made last year by the Blue Ribbon task force he appointed.

Mentoring was a significant concern for the task force. According to state Education Secretary Melody Schopp, there are 1,474 first- and second-year teachers working in South Dakota this year.

They include 1,217 in public school districts, 127 in non-public school districts, 109 at federal Bureau of Indian Education schools, 13 for educational cooperatives and nine at the state youth corrections facilities at Custer.

The big-math numbers for the governor's plan tell the story.

Currently school districts receive $665 million of state aid and general-education tax revenue through South Dakota's per-pupil funding formula, plus the $19 million pension revenue, for a total of $684 million.

They would receive $810 million through the new formula next year, after the adjustments made possible from the $107.4 million of additional sales tax revenue.

One interesting footnote in the governor's plan is hundreds of special-education teachers aren't included in the calculations.


The governor's chief of staff, Tony Venhuizen, said that's because special education is funded apart from general education.

The governor also recommends setting students-teacher ratios as the basis for funding school districts, rather than the current practice of funding per pupil, or paying according to the actual number of teachers.

The ratio for school districts with 600 or more students would be 15:1 under the governor's plan. The ratio for school districts with enrollments at 200 or below would be 12.5:1.

A sliding scale would be used for enrollments of 201 to 599.

The governor's calculation of need for reaching the $48,500 average salary consequently is based on 9,073 teachers, rather than all of the certified teachers in K-12 public schools.

This is part of the reason Daugaard emphasized in his speech Tuesday to the Legislature that not every school district will see an additional $8,500 per teacher and not every teacher will see an $8,500 raise.

Local school boards would still set their local salary schedules and would still decide how many teachers they hire. But their state aid would become based on the students-teacher ratios, if the Legislature agrees with the portion of the governor's plan.

The bottom line is school districts would see $63 million more than they otherwise would receive and property owners would indirectly receive $40 million of relief through lower general-education tax levies.

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