A parade of supporters and unanimous committee vote got Gov. Dennis Daugaard’s proposal to increase teacher pay off to a great start on Monday (2/8).
Nearly 20 supporters from the education, business and agriculture communities testified in favor of House Bill 1182, which increases the state’s sales tax by a half cent and reduces property taxes, and members of the House Appropriations committee passed the bill on a vote of 9-0.
HB 1182 is the first of a trio of bills – including Senate Bills 131 and 133 – aimed to put more money into public education and change the funding system to take the first step in the legislative process. Learn more about the pieces of Gov. Daugaard’s proposal here.
“This bill before you today is probably the most important of the three (bills),” Governor’s Chief of Staff Tony Venhuizen said.
Indeed HB 1182 acts as the catalyst of the proposal, as it will add more than $60 million in new revenue, through the half cent increase to the sales tax, for public schools to put towards improving teacher salaries and serves as the new, ongoing revenue source districts desperately need.
“We need a sustainable source in trying to compensate teachers,” ASBSD Executive Director Wade Pogany testified. “South Dakotans want this to happen.”
Testimony from the wide ranging group of supporters echoed Pogany’s sentiment.
“I do not take a sales tax increase lightly. However, I support the need,” DeLon Mork, owner of Madison’s Dairy Queen and member of the Blue Ribbon Task Force, testified.
“I hear from folks every single day on this bill and overwhelmingly they’re in support.”
Data from schools and the Blue Ribbon Task Force have illustrated how shallow the state’s teacher pool has become and have elevated concern among South Dakotans.
“We are concerned…about the difficulty of filling teaching positions,” S.D. Farm Bureau Lobbyist Michael Held testified. “If we let that go on…our quality of education is going to suffer tremendously.”
The state’s decreasing teacher pool has been generally attributed to low teacher pay. Sen. Deb Soholt, Co-Chair of the Blue Ribbon Task Force, noted South Dakota was $8,500 in average teacher salary behind North Dakota, which is the next lowest state in terms of pay in the region.
“This is a move we simply must (make),” Sen. Soholt said.
With South Dakota’s low pay resulting in fewer teachers, the problem has reached a crisis level. One the Governor’s proposal aims to fix.
“It is a long standing problem and a problem we need to end,” Venhuizen said. “We want to attract a new a generation of great teachers.”
HB 1182 is expected to be voted on by the full collection of House members on Wednesday. For updates on the vote, and other bills in the proposal package, check out the ASBSD Blog, Twitter feed and Bill Tracker page.