Report: 36 SD districts questioned about allocating teacher pay funds

By  | 

SOUTH DAKOTA The numbers are in, according to the South Dakota Department of Education 36 school districts are not meeting standards for increasing teacher pay.
Last year, state lawmakers passed a bill to raise teacher pay using a sales tax increase.
KSFY News reached out to several superintendents from the 36 districts and every one of them says they care about raising teacher pay…Some were even surprised they made this list.
The Canastota school district is on this list.

“It wasn't a shock. It was just a matter of when we got the letter,” Superintendent Larry Nebelsick said.

Every district in South Dakota received new funding to increase teacher pay.
The state required 85% of those funds to be used to increase the amount of total teacher compensation and average teacher compensation in each district.

“Our overall lump sum didn't increase like it was supposed to,” Nebelsick said.

The funding increase was based on a formula taking into account the amount of students and teachers in the district and those numbers changed during the fiscal year in Canistota.

“We knew when we had the retirees that would happen,” he said.

They also lost 14 students during their year, cutting their funding significantly.

“We lost $81,000 in that funding,” he said.

He says those changes altered the way the funding formula played out in the district and he wants to set the record straight when it comes to looming questions about why they failed to meet the requirements.

“Why aren't they paying, where did the money go, and it would indicate that there was some fraud going on, and that people want to know where that money went… Well, there's circumstances where it isn't a matter of where the money went, there wasn't money to begin with,” he said.

When the new law passed, officials with the Department of Education knew there would be circumstances preventing districts from complying with the new funding accountabilities.
There are five circumstances that allow districts to not meet the requirements.
Retiring teachers and decreased enrollment are on that list.

“We're just waiting to see how those waiver applications come in and to learn what's going on out there… It’s very, very important to us that teacher salaries do increase because there is a teacher a crisis in hiring teachers and a teacher pay crisis,” Department of Education Chief Financial Officer Tamara Darnall said.

The Lyman School District also failed to meet one of the standards.

“We as a district were obviously surprised that we didn't meet the accountability factors,” Superintendent Rob Davis said.

School districts on this list are facing a 50% reduction in new funding.
He says making sure they were follow the law was a priority.

“Why would business managers or school districts for that matter, do that if they knew that the penalty was a 50% reduction in their aid,” he said.
Officials from Colome say they thought they were in compliance and are waiting to hear back from the Department of Education.

Corsica-Stickney's superintendent says they experienced some changes in the number of teachers in the district and could have made a clerical error.

Plankinton's superintendent says they say saw a change in both the numbers of teachers and students.
Districts have until the first week in November to submit their application for a waiver.
The state's School Finance Accountability Board will review the request and let the district know whether or not they will be penalized.