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South Dakota Teacher-Pay Overhaul Approved

It's official: The three bills meant to raise South Dakota teacher salaries to an average of $48,500 and make it easier to recruit teachers were signed by Gov. Dennis Daugaard into law March 11. 

The overhaul will send about $60 million to districts in the form of funding; They have to put at least 85 percent of that into salaries, or face a penalty. The current average teacher salary is about $40,600.

As I wrote for Education Week, the biggest hurdle was passing a sales-tax increase, the first in the state in more than 40 years. The two companion bills that followed on its heels changed up the state's school finance formula.

Instead of being based on a per-pupil allocation, districts will get money keyed to a target student-teacher ratio (ranging from 12 to 1, to 15 to 1, depending on the size of the district). The state formula also gradually accounts for varying local sources of revenue, like wind-tax income, so that districts will be expected to put some of it towards schools before they get their cut of state aid.

The bills also establish a new mentoring program for teachers in their first two years in the classroom, direct the state education department to establish reciprocity procedures for recognizing teachers from out of state, and expand an e-learning center. 

For more on South Dakota's overhaul:

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