SIOUX CITY, Iowa (KCAU) — Last month, South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem called for a 6% pay increase in education during her budget address, something that school administrators said is vital for retaining their workforce.

A major topic of dsicussion so far in South Dakota’s legislative session is how to increase teacher pay, either through surplus federal funds or by revising school districts’ property tax levies through Senate Bill 59.

Jim Bolin serves the southeastern corner of the state and is also a part of the Senate Education Committee. He said a 6% pay increase will match or be greater than the current inflation rate.

“It’s a very difficult situation with the inflationary pressures we’re having right now. We have some money to spend and we’re gonna use it for state employees, schoolteachers, Medicaid providers, they all should get a six percent bump,” said District 16 State Senator Bolin.

With Sioux City’s school board unanimously passing wage increases for more than 400 support staff members like bus drivers and administrative assistants, districts like Elk Point-Jefferson understand the spending is needed to retain not just teachers but all school employees.

“We know that we’ve got to compete with Iowa and Nebraska in this corner of the state and to know that we’ve got additional money coming is great to know that we can do what we can to help maintain and raise teacher salaries as well,” said Elk Point-Jefferson School District Superintendent Derek Barrios.

South Dakota is ranked near the bottom nationally in nearly every teacher salary statistic, but Vermillion’s superintendent said the unprecedented boost in education funding would be a good first step for legislators to take.

“The idea that South Dakota is historically ranked rather low or the lowest in those compensation areas, it’s a sad state to be in but that’s the nature of our business right now and we need to do more to promote it with our legislators and I’m glad they’re on board to try to get us some more money this year,” said Dr. Damon Alvey, superintendent of Vermillion School District.

The pay raise for Sioux City’s support personnel goes into effect February 1 while South Dakota teachers will see their raise this fall if Senate Bill 59 passes.