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Schoenbeck Warns Board of Education Not to Redirect Cash away from Teacher Pay

Lee Schoenbeck
I send you to the store for milk, and you want to buy gummy bears?

Rep. Lee Schoenbeck (R-5/Watertown) isn’t running for reëlection, but he’s watching his Legislative baby like a hawk. Recall that Rep. Schoenbeck saved the teacher pay-raise plan last winter by amending this year’s House Bill 1182 to allocate three percent of the new half-penny sales tax to vo-tech instructor pay. Evidently the state Board of Education wants to pass rules that would spend that money on things other than instructor pay. Rep. Schoenbeck came to the board’s meeting in Aberdeen yesterday to say no flippin’ way:

“If it gets dissipated like was suggested here today, you’re going to lose it,” Schoenbeck said of the funding.

“Because the appropriators are going to figure out next year that the money didn’t go for that specific problem of competition in the private sector.”

If the money provided is more than necessary to give instructors raises, Schoenbeck asked that the schools simply not use the funds.

“It’s not a crime in any part of America to say, ‘The need to be competitive with industry is this amount, and you gave us too much money this year,’” he said. “If you take any part of it and run back into the general budget like this proposes, this program will be gone” [Katherine Grandstrand, “Members Look at Technical Institute Funding,” Aberdeen American News, 2016.05.17].

The rule change rousing Rep. Schoenbeck’s attention is in first-draft stage; it appears to be headed for public hearing at the next Board of Education meeting.


  1. Susan Wismer 2016-05-17 09:31

    Was the potential redirection of funds concerning Agenda item #9? Reading rules revisions has got to be the very worst way to spend a minute of your life, but to me, the top of the first page of that rule appears to be a potential DEcrease to set-asides, not an increase. The news story highlights Schoenbeck’s theatrics, but doesn’t provide any details about what prompted it. Can anybody help explain it?

  2. Lee Schoenbeck 2016-05-17 12:02

    Susan – I don’t know anything about “theatrics” – but I can give you context. Also, the agenda doesn’t tell anything about it. This was a first reading, where they just provide some notice about where they are thinking about going.

    Tech institutes (TIs) recruit largely from South Dakota, their grads stay in South Dakota, are employed in their fields and make livings that let young people build families and communities across our state. If you want to see good public investment, look to the funds we put into TIs (and this is not meant to denigrate four year degrees – we share a pedigree there as you know).

    One of the keys for TIs is the quality of instructors they can attract, which is in part based upon hiring people with industry experience. The challenge is that because they have industry experience, the door opens both ways. The TIs loose to, or can’t recruit from the private sector and positions go unfilled — and opportunity is lost for those potential students.

    I inserted an amendment into the school funding bill that allocated 3% of the funds annually for competitive salaries for TIs instructors – to finally create a permanent mechanism to allow them to meet the salary competition they face. Rules need to be drafted – and that’s where this is at.

    The pressure that exists within the TI world is to spread the funds broadly across more positions, and not focus them on those places where they need to be directed – and the legislation intended them to be directed. The schools have a rare shot here, if they stay within the intent, of having funds they can use for this purpose. If they dissipate the funds across other positions, they will loose the opportunity and then funds will be subsumed within their budgets – and the problem will still exist. The fight is about targeting the funds

    Susan, you will be in the legislature next year. I hope you will also champion this cause. If I can provide any information, feel free to call. We passed this bill because we met and worked together across the aisle (ask the House Dem leadership). Your bright, your an Augie alum, I hope you can keep that spirit working.

  3. caheidelberger Post author | 2016-05-17 17:52

    Lee—the agenda doesn’t say anything about it? A state board doesn’t lay out in public what it wants to do? The devil you say!

    Lee, Susan and I will both work to make sure the vo-techs don’t siphon that teacher pay off to other projects. We will keep it and the rest of the HB 1182 focused on teacher pay. And since the market forces you are talking about apply as much to K-12 as to vo-techs, we may even look at amending HB 1182 to pour more of that $107 million into teacher pay instead of the property tax handouts, which aren’t necessary to keep any young talent in our fair state and only make our tax system more regressive. ;-)

  4. Lee Schoenbeck 2016-05-17 18:09

    Corey – this was the first time I ever tried to track a state board’s agenda and I was surprised that the draft wasn’t on-line. What I learned is that this was like a “heads up” for the board on it. The real draft and hearing will be on-line.

    To be clear, all the funds go to educators, I don’t want any reader to be misled, it’s about solving a very targeted problem. An example, the Mitchell Tech Inst started a power substation program, because those people are needed in our state’s economy. Industry hired aware the lone instructor, stranding the program. The TI didn’t have the funds to compete, and thus the program couldn’t be taught. The story has repeated itself across the Build Dakota programs. This is the fix, if the funds aren’t dissipated. Hope that helps explain the issue

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