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February06

Senate Approps. reviews reimbursement program for rural teachers

A second bill promoting teacher recruitment to rural school districts had a hearing in front of legislative appropriators on Friday.

 

Senate Bill 144, which would create a tuition reimbursement program for certain teachers teaching in rural school districts, had a hearing in front of members of the Senate Appropriations committee.

 

No action was taken on the bill by the committee, but detailed discussion of the bill laid out the plight of school districts when it comes to lack of teachers.

 

“It’s not just math and science (where) we’re seeing the shortage, it’s across the board,” Sen. Billie Sutton, the prime sponsor of the bill said. “We need to address all teachers.”

 

SB 144 comes on the heels of House Bill 1092, which encourages individuals working in school districts with 600 or fewer students to earn a bachelor’s degree in education and return to the district to teach, passing the House with the prevailing thought of Representatives to keep the program alive until the funding picture clears. HB 1092 currently has $1 attached to it as a placeholder.

 

SB 144 would establish the reimbursement fund for teachers of rural school districts – defined as a district located in a town with a population less than 10,000 – who have taugh in the district for five years. Reimbursement would be made on the following timeline:

  • Following the eligible teacher’s third year of teaching in a rural school district, the teacher shall receive reimbursement for one year of postsecondary tuition and fees;
  • Following the eligible teacher’s fourth year of teaching in a rural school district, the teacher shall receive reimbursement for one year of postsecondary tuition and fees;
  • Following the eligible teacher’s fifth year of teaching in a rural school district, the teacher shall receive reimbursement for two years of postsecondary tuition and fees.

Funding for the reimbursement program would come from five percent of the annual receipts from South Dakota’s future fund.

 

In testimony opposing the bill, Jim Terwilliger of the South Dakota Bureau of Finance and Management said establishing the reimbursement program with dollars from the future fund sets a bad precedence because the dollars from the fund are not meant for ongoing programs, but rather one-time projects.

 

Sen. Sutton said he was willing to strike the funding source and look for dollars elsewhere in order to keep the bill alive. Private donations could also be made from other sources for the program.

 

Sen. Scott Parsley noted that if the state couldn’t provide qualified employees in the future for businesses that draw dollars from the future’s fund, the state wasn’t making good on its investment.

 

“This is the future we’re talking about,” Sen. Parsley said.

 

ASBSD supports SB 144, as well as HB 1092, and will provide updates on the bills as they become available.

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