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Senate Defines “Rural” More Broadly for Teacher Recruitment Than House

The Presidents' Day crackerbarrel in Redfield drew a good comment from a local school board member who would like the Legislature to help his district recruit more teachers.

The Legislature currently has two competing rural teacher recruitment proposals. House Bill 1092 would pay for paraprofessionals currently working in rural districts to get their teaching degrees. Senate Bill 144 would reimburse any new teacher who starts her or his career in a rural school district. À la Northern Exposure, both bills expect the new recruits to teach in rural districts for five years. HB 1092 pays the tuition up front; SB 144 reimburses tuition costs after the third, fourth, and fifth years of rural teaching.

The Redfield school board member noted a crucial difference between the bills' definition of rural. Under HB 1092, a qualifying district must have "fall enrollment of six hundred or less." SB 144 says "rural school district" means "located in a community with a population of ten thousand persons or less."

The Redfield Pheasants number about 650. HB 1092 would leave them out. Redfield's population is shy of 2,400. SB 144 would reimburse new teachers who went to Redfield.

Obviously, the Redfield school board would prefer that the Legislature enact SB 144 over HB 1092. You'd better start shouting, Redfield (and Milbank, and Madison!): HB 1092 is ahead, having cleared committee and House floor, while SB 144 is languishing in Senate Appropriations.

But hang on: check that SB 144 definition again:

"Rural school district," a school district located in a community with a population of ten thousand persons or less [Senate Bill 144, South Dakota Legislature, posted 2015.01.28].

Located in a community of 10,000 or less? What does community mean there? Does it mean the town in which the school sits? Or does it mean the entire school district, town and country? Either way, Redfield's good under SB 144, but school districts and the Legislature will want to know the exact definition and the full list of qualifying districts arising therefrom before passing SB 144.


  1. grudznick 2015.02.16

    We need to pay good teachers more, not these paraprofessionals. Nobody ever said we were lacking in these paraprofessionals. Heck, Mr. Greenfield himself of the legislatures serves as a teacher's aid and substitute on days off. If we can have Mr. Greenfield serving as a teacher then we need to define the problem at hand for it may be a doozier one than thought. Trot out a special panel to study this harder than ever, then the answers will come like the gas tax. Init?

  2. Deb Geelsdottir 2015.02.16

    In the 70s, when I began teaching, there was a program to benefit teachers who worked in low income schools. The criteria wasn't limited only to income, but I can't remember the rest. There was a certain amount deducted from the loan total for each year teaching in schools that met the criteria. There was no top limit for the number of years.

  3. caheidelberger Post author | 2015.02.16

    Low-income schools... Deb, do you remember what criteria they used? Maybe nunber of kids qualifying for free/reduced lunch? Did that program come from our Legislature? Did low-income schools have a teacher shortage? And do you have any idea when the program ended?

  4. Jason 2015.02.16

    I taught at Hill City high in the 1990's and my Perkins student loan was reduced by ~50% over three years. If I recall correctly Hill City qualified because of the large number of free/reduced lunch qualifiers.

  5. Jason 2015.02.16

    That was when you could get an undergraduate credit for $38 ... now you would have to be a martyr to get an education degree.

  6. CLCJM 2015.02.17

    I'd like to know more specifics on this, too. And would like to know how the proposal for paraprofessionals might work. I lived in Redfield and got a teaching degree at NSU. The commuting 90 miles round trip took s lot of time and money. I'm wondering if the paraprofessionals would be expected/allowed to continue in their current position while attending classes? They may need the income to survive. If we recruit them to go into teaching, who's going to replace them? Doesn't this turn into robbing Peter to pay Paul?

  7. caheidelberger Post author | 2015.02.17

    Good questions, CLCJM. I see nothing in the bill that prohibits the paras from continuing in their current positions while attending classes. I assume the paras would have to leave their jobs when they do their student teaching, and that could be an income problem, especially with the teacher ed programs moving toward year-long internships. If the paras want to keep working during their coursework, the universities will have to offer evening or online classes. And yes, commuting from Redfield or any other rural community could get expensive. But most of the paras aren't going to up and move to Aberdeen or another university town to take classes; they're going to drive back and forth, especially since they are probably intending (and expected!) to come back and work in their home school district.

    Ah, there's a wrinkle: HB 1092 only says that the promoted para must work in "a qualifying school district," not necessarily the school district in which he or she worked or whose administrator recommended him or her for the program. A para in Redfield could get the HB 1092 assistance, then take a better offer in Clear Lake. That would be robbing Peter twice.

  8. Deb Geelsdottir 2015.02.17

    I don't recall all the qualifications for those schools I taught in that resulted in a reduction in my student loan. However, it wasn't determined solely by income. Perhaps it was small class or school district size or population too.

    Deubrook, just northeast of Brookings qualified. The biggest class in the high school had 30 students. Henry, west of Watertown, also qualified. The biggest class there consisted of 13, the smallest was 6. Crow Creek also qualified. At the time I was told that all reservationschools qualified.

    I have no idea how many students received reduced price or free lunches.

  9. Deb Geelsdottir 2015.02.17

    Jana, when I started college at Northern in 1971 I paid $12 per credit. When I left in 1976 (Yes, 5 years and too much partying), it was up to $14 and we were outraged.

    Of course, minimum wage was less than $3/hr. In the 1930s you could by a loaf of bread for a dime. And you might earn a quarter for a day's work.

    It's all relative.

  10. Jay esser 2015.02.18

    I am the board member that asked the questions pertaining to hb1092 and sb144. I did some research on what schools in particular will be left out if hb1092 is adopted in original form. There are 17 schools with adm numbers between 600 to 913 that would not be able to partake in any incentive that this legislation would provide. They are Beresford 640, Canton 858, Chamberlain 902, Custer 865, Dell Rapids 913, Elk Point Jefferson 671,Flandreau 634, Hamlin 705, Hot Springs 816, Lead Deadwood 780, Milbank 903, Mobridge Pollock 662 Redfield 624, Sisseton 900, Triple Valley 806, Wagner 768, Winner 673. Based on 2013-14 ADM. There 3 schools within 40 students of going over 600, the closest being Groton at 586. I can only assume that most schools on this list struggle at finding highly qualified applicants for job openings the same as we do in Redfield. I think if legislators would have done some research and saw how 1092 would have exempted schools in their district, the bill would've been amended or had more nay votes.

  11. clcjm 2015.02.18

    Well, here's what happened with me. I was working at the developmental center and commuting. My intent was to get into something other than what I had been doing, in other words NOT special ed. There had been a program for speech therapy but it was discontinued before I could avail myself of it. I finally settled on teaching history . However, going part time, 6 credit hours/semester meant it was going to take forever to graduate. I also finally decided I really, after 26 years, needed to seek other employment.
    So I moved to Aberdeen and worked at several jobs while I finished. I even worked while I was doing my student teaching which my advisors didn't like but I had bills to pay. Once I got my degree, I looked around and, at that point, 2002, found that there were only about 5 positions in the state in my field. I applied but mostly didn't even get an interview. Eventually my husband and I even moved to Reno and I spent three years subbing in four district in that area, plus doing an after school program, an ESL class for adults four evening a week and did a boot camp for troubled teens two summers, all while taking many additional classes to improve my skills(ESL) and maintain my license. I was never able to get anything full time with any benefits. I finally asked a history teacher who I subbed for, if he had any idea why I wasn't even getting interviews most of the time. Well, he was a coach and he had gotten back from the game he'd coached before I left. He asked me if I could coach anything. I said, "No!" He said that's why. NCLB doesn't test for history so anybody can teach it so they would hire for coaching ability and then let them teach history because it wasn't important.
    After all that, I came back here to be near family and because all the work, etc. wasn't helping out there. I came back here hoping my additional experience and education would help but quickly found that none of the credits I took out there would be accepted here. I subbed here in Sioux Falls one more year and gave up and went back to taking care of people which eventually led to two catastrophic injuries that have put me on disability. Now I have huge student loans that I can't get forgiven (they become taxable income the minute they are "forgiven") and Congress is trying to cut disability! I'm pretty disillusioned. I believed that hard work and a degree would improve my life but it has put me in deeply in debt. It's pretty disappointing for someone who has worked this hard to better themselves to end up like this.
    I know this is a little off the subject and some will immediately jump on me for having a pity party but I know others have had similar experiences which discourages others from considering teaching. Add in the low wages and it really makes people think they don't even want anything to do with teaching. We have a real problem here and need to look at everything that is affecting the number of teachers.

  12. Deb Geelsdottir 2015.02.18

    Ahh CLCJM, I'm really sorry to hear about your struggles. That really sucksYou're right, what you've experienced keeps many people out of teaching.

  13. clcjm 2015.02.18

    Thanks, Deb. I'm glad you understand.

  14. caheidelberger Post author | 2015.02.18

    Jay, thanks for looking up those numbers! Have you sent those numbers to legislators yet? If not, send them to Senate Appropriations; they are next to deal with both bills.

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