Many Superintendents in the state of South Dakota have criticized a revised bill on merit pay, bonuses and teacher tenure that has just passed the Senate Education committee and is now headed back to the House floor for a vote.
They say that the bill doesn't address what is most important right now, as many of South Dakota's small school districts are struggling with an extremely tight budget and rising costs, writes Nicole Winters at Keloland.
Superintendent Linda Whitney said:
"With the additional costs that we have to run a school, our health insurance has increased, our electrical bill has increased, our fuel has increased, you name it."
The Sanborn Central school district took an 8.8 percent cut in 2011, leaving its 2012 funding levels back to what they were in 2007. Along with legislature cuts and declining enrollment, Whitney said paying bills is becoming harder because funding isn't keeping up. In fact, she says funding levels for 2012 are back to what they were in 2007.
While Sanborn Central has cut programs – leading the district to share teachers with neighboring districts – high school students are being forced to turn online and teachers haven't had a pay raise for more than three years.
"My fear is we're going to continue to lose teachers," Whitney said.
Teacher losses is a critical issue in the district. Whitney alone has seen two teachers leave in less than one year because of pay. And, despite offering teachers an extra bonus, she doesn't believe the house bill would solve the problem.
"Should good teachers, should great teachers be paid more? I totally agree, but first we have to pay all teachers and get off the 51st in the nation as far as teacher pay."
Rather than pass this bill Whitney would rather see legislators study the possibilities of merit pay and look at alternative avenues for funding because she says "that's what's going to keep good teachers in the classroom and increase student achievement."