PIERRE, S.D. - We all know by now that South Dakota is state number fifty, dead last, when it comes to average teacher salary.
Lawmakers working to change that suffered a set-back Thursday when a bill that would have raised all of our taxes to give teachers a pay raise came 1 vote short of clearing the house and making its way to the senate.
The gallery was packed with educators. Even some legislators said they’ve never seen so many people come out to watch them debate a bill. But to these educators dismay, after and long and emotional debate, the bill failed by one vote.
Educators from across the state came to the capitol with a message, teacher pay needs to be increased this year.
“Bell Fourche is about 20 minutes from the Wyoming border. I have lost many friends from my district and surrounding districts going to Wyoming and they make 15 to 17,000 dollars more a year doing the same job,” teacher Carrie Andersen said.
The bill presented to the House Thursday would raise the sales tax by one half-cent to fund a teacher pay increase.
Since the bill was met with some resistance, lawmakers hoping the pass HB1182 created a few amendments to make the bill more clear and keep districts accountable when it comes to spending the money.
“It was an attempt to make this better for them and we put forth the effort and it was not returned for us and that's part of where my disappointment lies,” Representative Paula Hawks explained.
But Republicans didn’t bite.
In fact, representative Don Haggar says he thinks many law makers already had their minds made up before going into the session.
“We just feel like there is a better way of doing things, a more fiscally responsible of funding this education package,” Haggar stated.
Haggar says all House lawmakers want to increase teacher funding. Where they're bumping heads, is figuring out how to do that.
“We believe there is ample revenue in our existing budget to properly fund these reforms and so that's why there were enough no votes to stop the tax increase,” he explained.
A lot of educators had their hopes up Thursday. The no vote sent some of them walking away wondering if teacher pay will actually be increased during the session.
Even though the bill failed Thursday, it still has a chance to be passed. Lawmakers will vote Friday to determine whether or not they want to reconsider the bill.
Legislators on both sides of the aisle expect the bill to be reconsidered.
KSFY News was told to look for the bill again on Monday’s schedule.