SIOUX CITY, Iowa (KCAU) – A survey released by the National Education Association shows teacher salaries in South Dakota jumped 4.5 percent over the last decade. That’s the second biggest increase across the nation.

The increase came into place back in 2016 when South Dakota lawmakers approved a half-cent sales tax increase. With that increase, 70 percent of that money is now being used to improve teacher salaries in the state.

“We still are lowest in the region, and we’re 48th in the nation. That’s better than being last, but we hope to become regionally competitive but we are depending on the legislature to be able to fund that, ” said Dr. Jerry Rasmussen, the Dakota Valley superintendent.

Dakota Valley teachers are now enjoying the increase in salary with the new legislation. One educator at Dakota Valley, Ben Blaeser, is an alumnus of Dakota Valley. He and his wife work at the district and are happy with the recent changes being made in the state. 

“So over the past two years, it has been really great. We’re going to see an increase here. With my wife and myself both being educators in the community, we’re both looking forward to the fact that it’s not going to be a total shift in our lifestyle, but it will definitely help out,” says Blaeser.

According to the University of South Dakota’s Dean of Education Donald Easton-Brooks, his program’s enrollment rate in the past two years has greatly increased. He believes educators’ salaries could be a reason why. 

“We are finding that it’s starting to have an impact on our enrollment because we are seeing enrollment increase, but also at the same time, we are seeing a high percentage of students who are actually staying in the state rather than going to other states to teach,” Easton-Brooks said.

“We are seeing results from it. Our pay has increased significantly. We still have not caught surrounding states, but the gap isn’t as wide as it was,” says Dr. Rasmussen.

Rasmussen said paying teachers is just part of the goal but keeping teachers in the state once they take a job also plays a role in providing the best education possible.