In 2015, Governor Daugaard convened the Blue Ribbon Task Force to address the issue of recruiting and retaining excellent teachers. South Dakota had paid the lowest average teacher salary for decades, and the gap with surrounding states was widening.
During the 2016 session, the state Legislature passed a package of three bills based on the recommendations of the Blue Ribbon Task Force. The purpose of these bills was to direct new funding to school districts to increase teacher salaries.
In the first school year following the bill’s passage, the average teacher salary increased 11.9 percent to $46,924. A number of the state’s smaller school districts saw higher than average increases. In Jones County, the average teacher salary increased by 22.4 percent. In Ethan, it increased by 19.7 percent. In Mobridge-Pollock, salaries increased 25 percent. Faith increased 18.3 percent. Iroquois increased 23.3 percent. Florence increased 19.6 percent. Burke increased 18.8 percent. Oelrichs salaries improved by 20.5 percent. Gayville-Volin went up 21.4 percent. And the highest increase in the state, as a percentage, was Waubay with 26.3 percent.
Larger schools also enjoyed sizable raises, although they had higher salaries to begin with and therefore their percentage increases are generally lower. Most were close to the state average of 11.9 percent, although Brandon Valley achieved an increase of 19.3 percent and Meade County went up 14.7 percent.
Governor Daugaard has heard from many superintendents that these raises are having an impact. Fewer teachers are departing, fewer vacancies are unfilled, more are applying for open positions and more teachers are staying in South Dakota rather than leaving the state.