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Teachers gained 11.8 percent from state's sales tax increase

PIERRE -- South Dakota teachers ranked 30th in the nation for buying power last year, based on data given Wednesday to the state Teacher Compensation Review Board.

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PIERRE - South Dakota teachers ranked 30th in the nation for buying power last year, based on data given Wednesday to the state Teacher Compensation Review Board.

South Dakota teachers were last for average salary of $42,025 in 2016. They rose to forty-eighth with $46,979 in 2017, according to the National Education Association.

Two additional calculations moved South Dakota to No. 30, Tony Venhuizen said.

The chief of staff for Gov. Dennis Daugaard subtracted taxes from the average salaries for the 50 states and the District of Columbia.

Then he put those numbers on a U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis scale.

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South Dakota moved ahead of Montana at 38 but still ranked behind Wyoming (11), Iowa (14), North Dakota (16), Nebraska (26) and Minnesota (27).

"This is where the rubber hits the road, these three sheets here," Venhuizen said.

States where teachers protested in recent months ranked behind South Dakota in buying power, said Sen. Jim Bolin, R-Canton. "I think we did absolutely the right thing," he said.

South Dakota's 11.8 percent increase as calculated by NEA directly resulted from the Legislature raising the state sales tax rate to 4.5 percent in 2016.

Lawmakers designated the extra revenue for property-tax relief and teacher salaries. They acted after the Republican governor named a task force on teachers and students in 2015.

North Carolina was second most at 4.2 percent. The archivist for NEA records told Venhuizen that 1985 was the previous time South Dakota wasn't last in the nation.

A state Education Department official said Wednesday student enrollment would grow the next five years in South Dakota.

Abby Javurek, the department's director of accountability systems, said trends point toward the total supply of teachers being sufficient.

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But she wasn't certain about enough specialty teachers in subjects such as math, science, social sciences and special education.

"The challenge comes back to the hard-to-fill positions," Javurek told the board.

In addition to raising the sales tax rate from 4 percent, legislators also changed the state financial-aid formula for public schools in 2016. They switched to a sliding scale of 12 to 14 students per teacher. The previous formula set an amount per student.

Under both approaches, state aid covered what statewide property taxes couldn't raise.

"That is movement in a positive direction and something to pay attention to," Javurek said about teacher salaries since the sales-tax increase.

State Education Secretary Don Kirkegaard said school districts face an Oct. 15 deadline for submitting salary data for the new academic year.

State law limits annual increases in state aid to 3 percent or inflation, whichever is less. Sen. Deb Soholt, R-Sioux Falls, said increases of 0.3 percent and 1.7 percent in 2017 and 2018 didn't provide much room to "appreciably" increase salaries.

Rep. Julie Bartling, D-Gregory, said the public would still see South Dakota at number 48 regardless of the administration's math. Bartling said she wants stability. "I know all legislators would like that," she said.

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The board meets again Aug. 29. Venhuizen asked board members to think about a draft report.

Sen. Troy Heinert, D-Mission, said "a really important part" would be feedback from superintendents and business managers.

"Our districts are very vast and obviously a lot different in other areas," said Heinert, whose district covers six counties and the Rosebud Indian Reservation. He added, "I think we're leaving the schools out of the equation right now."

"I'm happy to receive that feedback if it is offered," Venhuizen replied. Watching from the side were Wade Pogany and Rob Monson for school boards and school administrators.

Said Bolin: "We need to maintain a 'steady as she goes,' at least for a while."

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