SIOUX FALLS, S.D. — A state board is demanding that nearly a dozen South Dakota school districts increase teacher pay to make up for more than $300,000 owed in teachers’ salaries this year.
The School Finance Accountability Board has identified 11 districts that violated teacher pay requirements in state law, the Argus Leader reported . The board asked districts to review teacher contracts to ensure money meant for their salaries is used as intended.
Board members said none of the schools intentionally avoided salary increases.
“I’m very, very confident about the intent of the people in the school districts to do everything they could to improve teacher salaries,” said Terry Nebelsick, the board’s president.
Legislation approved last year raised teacher salaries through a half-cent increase in sales tax. The legislation also set guidelines for how districts should use 85 percent of the new money for teacher pay.
Affected districts must increase teacher pay by Feb. 1 or risk losing up to half of their new funding.
The board granted waivers to several districts that had a valid excuse for failing to meet teacher pay requirements. The Garretson school district wasn’t one of them. Garretson, among the shrinking school districts that have seen a decline in enrollment over the past year, owes $62,000 in teacher salaries.
Teacher pay targets are determined by prior year enrollment. Superintendent Guy Johnson said his district was “put in a tough spot” with limited guidance on how to apply funding. The district will have to pay their instructors more before the deadline.
“If we’ve got to increase our spending without the revenue there, we’ll solve that problem … but that’s one of the difficult pieces of this,” said Johnson. “We really felt like we had done things right.”
The board will send a report the Joint Committee on Appropriations after a final meeting next week.
Information from: Argus Leader, http://www.argusleader.com