District 22 legislators in town for coffee at Oxbow

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

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South Dakota District 22 Senator Jim White (R) and House Representatives Dick Werner (R) and Peggy Gibson (D) met with about a half-dozen De Smet area residents Feb. 14 at the Oxbow Restaurant in De Smet. They also planned stops that day in Lake Preston and Arlington.


District 22 is comprised of Beadle and Kingsbury counties.


“Kingsbury County is a big part of our district.” White said, “We’re here to visit with constituents. We’re not here to promote an agenda, but to give you an update.


Gibson is serving her fourth term in the House and is on the education and judiciary committees.


One issue that concerns her is education and the problem with teacher retention. South Dakota has the lowest teacher pay in the nation. Gibson said a lot of teachers in the state are approaching retirement age, and there are not enough new graduates staying in South Dakota to fill their spots.


“We are going to have a huge teacher shortage, especially in rural areas,” she said.


Gov. Dennis Daugaard recently assigned a “blue ribbon task force” to study the teacher shortage in South Dakota.


“We already know what the problems are. This blue ribbon committee just kicks the can down the road for another year,” Gibson said.


“I read that the student to teacher ratio in South Dakota is 14-1,” Rod Gilbertson of rural De Smet said. “How does that compare to other states and does that factor in to South Dakota having the lowest pay?”


White said South Dakota’s ratio was about average in the nation.


 “Some schools may have 25 (students in a classroom) and some may have eight, “ Werner said. “It’s not apples to apples.”


“I was wondering about the workload and the salary,” Gilbertson said.


White said classroom size may be factored in. He said although South Dakota is ranked last in teacher pay, it is ranked 35th for per student allocation (PSA) for the amount of money the schools receive from the state.  The more students there are, the more money the school receives.


“A lot depends on how the school allocates those funds,” he said.


Werner said one problem with funding is that the Department of Education has been looking at school reserves only once a year, on June 30, which might not give a clear picture.


“Looking at school reserves on June 30 is like looking at a farmer’s checkbook after he has just sold grain,” he said.


Donna Palmlund

Staff Writer

The De Smet News

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