Senate Appropriators tabled a proposal that would have established and funded a program to recruit and retain teachers for rural school districts.
House Bill 1092 encouraged individuals working as paraprofessionals in school districts with 600 or fewer students enrolled and at least one teaching position unfilled the previous year to enroll in a post-secondary program, earn a bachelor’s degree in education and return to the district to teach.
Opponents and committee members lauded the efforts of the bill’s prime sponsor Rep. Thomas Holmes, but ultimately could not support it due to uncertainty in available funds and potential logistical issues in its implementation.
It was noted there are currently three scholarships available for students seeking bachelor degrees in education – the Critical Teaching Needs, Dakota Corp and Opportunity – that provide approximately $8 million total.
HB 1092 held $1 placeholder funding. It was initially introduced with $1.5 million committed to the program, which Rep. Holmes said would help alleviate the teacher shortage many rural school districts are facing.
Gov. Dennis Daugaard’s Blue Ribbon Task Force was also cited during the committee hearing as a potential forum to look at options to help solve the teacher shortage.
ASBSD supported the bill.