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South Dakota lawmakers are taking a close look at teacher pay this session. A specific plan to establish salary requirements cleared the House this week.

South Dakota has consistently ranked near the bottom among states for teacher pay. The bill sets the minimum educator salary at $45,000 and ties pay increases to boosts in state aid districts receive.

Sandra Waltman, lobbyist for the South Dakota Education Association, testified at a recent hearing in support of the effort. She said the two main provisions would work hand-in-hand in bolstering staff levels.

“The minimum teacher salary will help get teachers into the profession,” Waltman pointed out. “Ensuring that the compensation is growing at the rate of the state aid index, it will help keep them in the profession.”

A salary accountability tool adopted by South Dakota several years ago is due to expire at the end of the fiscal year. The teachers’ union said while the plan prevented salaries from sliding backward, some districts still struggled and pay remained flat. As for the current bill, some House members voted ‘no,’ citing opposition from superintendents who said the minimum pay requirement would put them in a bind.

Doug Wermedal, executive director of the Associated School Boards of South Dakota, suggested the compromise plan offers flexibility for districts with limited resources.

“The elements of the bill provide for a phase-in to full implementation and establish a waiver process (which) will aid districts in aligning their resources properly,” Wermedal explained.

Legislative leaders in support of the plan said districts have until the 2026-2027 academic year to be in compliance. The bill, which was drafted with support from the state education department, now heads to the Senate for consideration.

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