SOUTH DAKOTA (KSFY) - For the first time since 2016, school districts will not receive an increase in teacher salaries under Governor Kristi Noem's 2021 budget.
In Noem's budget, she was not able to give an inflationary increase to education, providers, and state employees, but she was able to fund other parts of education.
This has concerned the Executive Board of the South Dakota Superintendents Association. Wednesday, the association responded to Noem's budget address saying that the budget proposal calls for a zero percent increase to the teacher target salary, but the consumer price index is at two percent.
Governor Noem addressed some of the concerns Thursday afternoon at an event in Sioux Falls.
"My budget this year I was not able to give an increase to any of those and it is one of the things that was probably the hardest decision for me," Governor Kristi Noem said.
Education is a hot topic for the public and school superintendents after Governor Noem gave a zero percent increase for teacher salaries in South Dakota.
"Obviously with the tight difficult year that we've had and disasters in the state of South Dakota we've had to tighten our belts and we just don't have a lot of extra revenue," Noem said.
This has led to some concern for South Dakota superintendents. They met in Oacoma Wednesday after the budget address. When Noem's budget was not able to propose the increase to the salary they came together to voice their concerns.
"We have a responsibility as school leaders to make sure that the public understands the complexity of what's going on," Huron Superintendent of Schools, Terry Nebelsick said.
In 2016, the legislature passed the Blue Ribbon Task Force recommendation which would increase the target teacher salary each year by the consumer price index or by three percent.
It helps teachers salaries remain regionally competitive, but over the last few years, teachers’ salaries haven't reached the CPI.
"If the cost of living is not addressed which was part of the statute that we are beginning the process of getting back to 51st and more importantly to that the process of no longer being regionally competitive," Nebelsick said.
Since Noem wasn't able to increase salaries she funded the special education rebase which will be another $14 million going to schools throughout South Dakota.
"Some of these school districts were funding that out of their general fund and so that will certainly help them make sure they're stretching their dollars more," Noem said.
Noem said they've been asking for that in years past. She also added another one million dollars to increased enrollments.
Nebelsick said there is more money going into public education which he appreciates, but said South Dakota could fall behind again if teachers aren't being paid well.
"If I can't give them a raise I sure don't want to take more money out of their pockets for them to have healthcare coverage," Noem said.
Noem said she's always willing to see what she can do, but there wasn't a lot of money to use from 2019. A one percent increase would have cost $16 million and Noem said it just wasn't there.
Going forward lawmakers will get a chance to look over the budget and Noem said changes could be made if possible.
Some members of the public had questions if salary increases could be withheld after 2016's Blue Ribbon Task Force recommendation.
Noem said it's a general recommendation unless something different is suggested in the governor's budget or what the legislature adopts. In the past, there have been cuts and times where it's been zero percent. She adds that it depends on how the state's economy is doing.