House Appropriations committee members kept alive a bill that would establish and fund a program to recruit and retain teachers for rural school districts. Committee members voted 7-1 in support of the bill.
House Bill 1092 calls for the creation of the rural school teacher recruitment assistance program, which encourages individuals working as paraprofessionals in the district to earn their bachelor’s degree in education and return to the district they’re working in to teach.
The eligible individuals would have to follow a variety of criteria to be eligible for the program and districts would have to have an enrollment of 600 or fewer students and have had at least one teaching profession they were unable to fill the previous year.
The bill was amended to include $1 in place of the $1.5 million initially proposed in order to keep the idea alive.
“This is a concept we should keep in mind,” ASBSD Executive Director Wade Pogany said. “(School districts) could certainly use some help. Don’t just dismiss this.”
South Dakota Bureau of Finance and Management requested the committee pass on the idea, as Steven Kohler of BFM testified that Gov. Dennis Daugaard’s proposed budget for fiscal year 2016 was already “balanced” and approving funding for the recruitment program would require the removal of funds from other areas.
Rep. Thomas Holmes, the bill’s sponsor, said the recruitment program would put more teachers in classrooms and benefit the state’s many students.
“What we’re talking about here is the benefit of our children,” Rep. Holmes said. “They are our most important priority.”