- Associated Press - Sunday, February 19, 2017

MITCHELL, S.D. (AP) - Statistics from the South Dakota Department of Education show that most of the state’s teachers are nearing retirement at a faster pace than first-year teachers are being recruited.

The statistic has some educators wondering if the South Dakota Legislature’s 2016 move to boost teacher pay came soon enough, The Daily Republic (https://bit.ly/2ls4uSQ) reported. Last year, lawmakers passed a 0.5 percent sales tax increase in hopes that it would help South Dakota climb out of the lowest-in-the-nation ranking for average teacher pay.

According to the education department, the average national retirement age for teachers is 59, and more than 30 percent of South Dakota’s full-time educators are at least 51.

“I think that’s been a concern for quite a few years is the number of people either at, or will soon be at, retirement age in the teaching workforce,” Board of Education President and Meade School District Superintendent Don Kirkegaard said. “Our district, just like many districts, we’re going to lose a significant number of quality educators in the next three to five years. So it will be difficult to replace those long-term employees who have so much invaluable experience.”

Corsica-Stickney teacher Mike Tuschen said the retirements mean school districts are preparing to lose a combined hundreds of years of experience and community connections.

Kirkegaard said more applications have come in to fill long-unfilled vacancies since the half-percent sales tax increase passed. But the superintendent said the state still needs to focus on making sure there are “quality people” enrolled in universities’ education programs.

“The bottom line is we can’t hire good, new teachers if there aren’t good, new people going into the profession,” he said. “That really is a critical component.”


Information from: The Daily Republic, https://www.mitchellrepublic.com

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