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South Dakota Educators Need Money To Draw Teachers

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Harrisburg Water Tower.  Used with permission by the City of Harrisburg, SD.
Harrisburg Water Tower. Used with permission by the City of Harrisburg, SD.
Jim Holbeck (Download MP3)

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO AM) – Much like any state luring teachers to South Dakota has its advantages and disadvantages.  It all boils down to money, and offering nice safe communities isn’t enough of a perk to draw teachers. 

“When dollars show up, we put them in the teacher’s pockets and teacher pay is where most of the money in a school budget goes,” said Jim Holbeck, Superintendent of Harrisburg School District.  “Schools are dependent on the formula dollar amounts that come from where the legislature amounts are set at.”

Holebeck explained the formula: When schools are making their plans on what they are going to do with their salaries and how they are going to pay their teachers, they need to find out what legislature is going to do that given year.  The formula says you get paid inflation which is the amount of money that comes in.  One year, we were frozen and another year we were cut 6.6 percent.  The biggest challenge is how we keep our pay marketable salaries and yet stay within our means of where the money is coming from.

“We are 51st in teacher pay because they throw Washington, D.C. in to even make us feel worse,” said Holbeck.  “The next closest state is North Dakota and they have been pumping money like crazy into their teachers salaries.  Right now, we are so far behind that I don’t really know what we need to catch up.”

“We need to restore some trust; when you tell a collegue that here is the formula and here is what you can count on, and the legislature ignores that law.” said Holbeck “When we do get the money, we don’t know whether to spend it or sock it away in case we get cut again.  If the legislature would restore that trust, school districts would loosen up their purse strings.”

Holbeck said that we get people who want to come back to South Dakota because they love their state.  Also, someone will get a job here and their spouse will teach for a secondary income.  I tried to recruit a teacher back to Sioux Falls, but where they are, they are making money we can’t compete with.  I can’t expect someone to return to South Dakota and take a huge cut in pay and that is what we are running into.

Jim Holbeck was a guest on the Greg Belfrage Show May 14, 2013

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