Lawmakers try to boost education in South Dakota - KTIV News 4 Sioux City IA: News, Weather and Sports

Lawmakers try to boost education in South Dakota

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PIERRE, S.D. (KTIV) -- South Dakota's working hard to stay competitive when it comes to education.

Some say it's time to attract more teachers.

KTIV's Kristen Johnson talked to Siouxland's lawmakers at the state capitol in Pierre on Tuesday.

A new survey puts the state of South Dakota dead last in teacher pay.

While some state lawmakers say that's a direct result of underfunding education, others say the issue can't be solved simply by throwing money at the problem."

"Recruitment and retention of teachers is an issue for the state of South Dakota," said Sen. Jean Hunhoff, a republican from Yankton.

What lawmakers want to do about it seems to depend on what side of the proverbial aisle they sit.

"Definitely, I think there's a funding problem." said Sen. Tom Jones, a democrat from Viborg.

The only side longtime educator Jim Bolin is taking is with students.

"If we don't do something to improve education, or education funding. I may very well vote against the budget again," said Rep. Jim Bolin, a republican from Canton.

The leader of one of the school districts Bolin represents, Dakota Valley, says low teacher pay is having an impact on hiring.

Al Leber, Dakota Valley Superintendent said "The pool of applicants is getting smaller and smaller."

In fact, the district received just one resume for a recent opening.

And, much like Iowa, Nebraska, and South Dakota compete for business, they also compete for teachers.

And South Dakota is finding itself on the losing end of that battle.

Fellow Democrat, Senator Tom Jones of Viborg plans to introduce a bill that changes the funding formula.

Right now, it's 3% or the rate of inflation, whichever is less. His bill takes out the language about inflation, and makes 3% the base increase each year.

"They need to have a number that they can put their fingers on for expected expenditures in the upcoming year." says Jones.

Senator Jean Hunhoff, who is a nurse, says low pay isn't just a problem in teaching.

Governor Dennis Daugaard has suggested a three-percent increase. Some want more.

Some lawmakers are looking for alternatives, to bridge the gap.

Because, right now it's an issue not just of quantity of teachers, but quality.

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