PIERRE, S.D. (AP) — A scholarship plan aimed at recruiting new teachers for math, science and other critical subjects was approved Tuesday by a legislative panel after supporters said South Dakota's universities are not producing enough graduates to replace retiring teachers.
The Education Committee voted unanimously to approve the idea and send the bill to the Senate Appropriations Committee, which will review the measure because it would spend money.
The bill would set up a new scholarship program for certain college students who agree to teach critically needed subjects in South Dakota school districts for at least five years after graduation. Students preparing for teaching careers could get scholarships to help cover tuition and fees for their final two years in a private or public college.
Some extra state money available for one-time use would be placed in a trust fund, with the interest earnings used to fund the scholarships.
The measure's main sponsor, Sen. Tim Rave, R-Baltic, said 532 teachers retired in South Dakota school districts last year, but the state's universities graduated just 482 students who majored in education. Some of those graduates never teach in South Dakota, but instead take jobs in other states.
School districts last year had 74 openings for English teachers, but only 36 students graduated from college in that field, Rave said. Districts had 52 openings for math teachers, but only 24 new math teachers graduated. And while districts had 51 openings for science teachers, universities produced only 19 graduates to teach in that field.
Gov. Dennis Daugaard's proposed state budget left $26.5 million uncommitted but available for one-time use. Rave said he is seeking only $5 million of that to set up the scholarship program because the Legislature is likely to want the rest of the uncommitted money for other uses. Interest earnings on that $5 million would support 15 scholarships a year, he said.
"We have a problem. This starts to address that problem," Rave said.
Rave noted that a similar scholarship plan was included last year in a wide-ranging education measure that was proposed by Daugaard but rejected by voters in the November election. That bill included plans to give bonuses to top teachers and phase out teacher tenure, but most people liked the parts of the measure setting up scholarships, Rave said.
Rob Monson, executive director of the School Administrators of South Dakota School, said school districts hope to get more state aid for general operating expenses, but the scholarship bill will help districts find teachers in critical subjects.
South Dakota already has one scholarship program that provides money to students who pursue careers in critically needed occupations, such as teaching math and science. The Dakota Corps scholarship program is financed by donations.
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