CORSICA, S.D. — Some South Dakota school districts face penalties for not following state requirements for using a portion of sales tax revenue to boost teacher pay.

Thirty-eight districts violated either one or both of the requirements set by the state Legislature.

South Dakota ranks lowest in the nation in average teacher salary. The accountability requirements are meant to make sure schools are using the appropriate amount of funds generated by a half-percent sales tax hike aimed at increasing teacher salaries.

The Daily Republic reports 32 districts violated one requirement for increasing teacher pay while six others violated the second. The nearly 40 schools will each face penalties, unless the state School Finance Accountability Board waives them.

“There could be unique circumstances as to why some districts didn’t meet the accountabilities,” said Mary Stadick Smith, spokeswoman for the South Dakota Department of Education. “There are lots of reasons how and why that would happen, and legislators realized that. That’s why they set up this board to take a look at those unique circumstances.”

Officials with the state Education Department say they are pleased with the state’s progress as a whole. South Dakota increased its average teacher salary by 8.8 percent between fiscal years 2016 and 2017. While the state average sits at $45,625, nearly $3,000 behind the $48,500 goal, Gov. Dennis Daugaard said he anticipates the upward trend will continue.

The Colome School District implemented an average salary increase of 18 percent, but Superintendent Ryan Orrock said it’s not enough.

While the increase likely will help retain teachers already employed by the district, Orrock said he does not expect the $41,038 average salary will draw new teachers to fill vacant positions.

“Teacher pay is still a real issue as we try to compete with surrounding states,” Orrock said. “It’s great for our teachers, they enjoy being paid more, but ultimately it doesn’t help our general fund.”


Information from: The Daily Republic, http://www.mitchellrepublic.com