South Dakota lawmakers begin the 2021 session next week. As the budget takes shape, how big a raise public school teachers could receive is expected to get plenty of debate. Governor Kristi Noem has proposed a pay hike of two-point-four percent for K-through-12 teachers. That's above the required one-and-a-half percent under state law. Loren Paul of the South Dakota Education Association says the higher amount would be a big help, as the state is having a hard time attracting educators.

In 2016, South Dakota overhauled its school funding formula, requiring pay hikes of either three percent or the inflation rate, whichever is less. But a 2019 analysis found the state was behind in reaching the goals outlined in the changes. That prompted some Democratic lawmakers to push for a three-percent raise this year, while some Republicans say that might be too high, given other budget needs during the pandemic.

State Senator Reynold Nesiba is among the Democrats calling for the state to approve a raise higher than what the governor is proposing. He says it's a matter of priorities.

Republican Representative Roger Chase says he supports the pay raise proposed by the governor, but it might be difficult to go beyond that.

Legislative leaders say the issue will be examined by budget appropriators in the coming weeks, with a floor debate expected near the end of the session. According to the S-D-E-A, the average teacher salary in South Dakota is just above 48-thousand dollars.

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