SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) — South Dakota no longer has the lowest-paid teachers in the U.S. after holding the ranking for more than three decades, according to a recent report.
The National Education Association released its annual report on Monday. The report showed that salary increases pushed South Dakota from 51st to 48th in the country, including the District of Columbia. A half-cent sales tax increase in 2016 brought millions of dollars into the state’s school districts.
The report said the state’s average teacher salaries rose nearly 12 percent to almost $47,000, which marks the largest improvement in percentage and dollars in the country. But South Dakota still lags behind the annual teacher salary across the U.S. by more than $12,000.
Gov. Dennis Daugaard credited the improvement to the 2015 Blue Ribbon Task Force, which studied how to increase teacher pay and recommended the tax increase.
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“We also sent an important message to our teachers — that we value the work they do, that three decades in last place was enough and that we were willing to step up to improve their salaries,” Daugaard said in a statement.
Teacher salaries haven’t met the $48,500 average target lawmakers set two years ago.
Overall, the report ranked South Dakota above Mississippi, Oklahoma and West Virginia. South Dakota’s new ranking was still behind neighboring states. North Dakota secured the 27th spot, Nebraska ranked 30th and Minnesota ranked 20th, with an average salary of more than $57,000.