(The Center Square) – A pilot program designed to help address South Dakota’s teacher shortage launches with over 90 participants in the upcoming 2023-2024 school year, Gov. Kristi Noem said Monday.
Participants in the state’s Teacher Apprenticeship Pathway can finish the course in about two years to complete and receive their teaching certifications, according to a news release from Noem’s office.
Nearly 175 teacher vacancies were unfilled in South Dakota last year, according to the Department of Education. Dakota State University says the South Dakota Teacher Placement Center Data shows at least 545 teacher openings that are either unfilled or needed for the upcoming school year.
“When I announced that we would be rebooting our Registered Apprenticeship programs here in South Dakota, this is exactly the kind of thing I had in mind,” Noem said. “This new opportunity will allow South Dakotans to work towards their bachelor’s degree this year, while still providing them the freedom to continue working. Our kids and grandkids deserve the best teachers we can give them, and this pathway will help us meet that goal.”
While the Department of Education is carrying the bulk of the cost with the help of the Department of Labor and Regulation, participants will be responsible for up to $1,000 per year to help cover tuition and the cost of required books and state assessments, according to Dakota Dreams, a federally-funded education resource website.
Northern State University and Dakota State University will offer coursework for the program virtually so participants can continue working as teachers’ aides while enrolled.
“I am very excited for these para-educators. They are all fitting candidates to fill the state’s teacher pipeline. They already live and work in our communities, and they are committed to providing their students with the best possible education,” said Dr. Joseph Graves, South Dakota Secretary of Education.
Graves previously said the program won’t “entirely solve” the teacher shortages school districts face but could make a significant difference.