SIOUX FALLS, S.D. — A year after teachers across South Dakota got raises, state and school officials say it’s too soon to tell if higher salaries are retaining more teachers.

South Dakota began collecting an extra half-cent sales tax last June to increase teacher pay, the Argus Leader (http://argusne.ws/2ttPYvn ) reported. The number of open teaching positions has decreased compared to this time last year, but the state doesn’t have evidence or research to conclude the tax is responsible.

“We don’t really have the data to give it any credit or blame or anything,” said Randy Royer, director of the South Dakota Teacher Placement Center.

The latest data from the center shows openings at a five-year low, with more than 170 openings this month compared to nearly 190 in June 2016. The overall number of openings from September to June is also down year-over-year, continuing a slight overall decrease from peak teaching vacancies in 2015.

Royer said that while numbers are going “in the right direction,” the situation could turn around with the state’s lagging sales tax revenue.

Although the state can’t contextualize the data’s relationship to teacher pay, the impact of the pay increase is more apparent at the local level.

Garretson School District Superintendent Guy Johnson n said he has seen several teachers who were eligible to retire choose to keep teaching instead.

In Sioux Falls, there hasn’t been a change in the number of open teaching positions, but that isn’t a bad thing, according to Becky Dorman, the local school district’s human resources director. Dorman said that while the pay raise hasn’t decreased overall vacancies, it may have prevented shortages from getting worse.

“I think it really gave us a chance to keep our head above water,” Dorman said. “I’m afraid what things would have looked like if we didn’t have the half-penny sales tax.”


Information from: Argus Leader, http://www.argusleader.com