SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) _ It is becoming increasingly difficult to find people to fill open teaching positions in South Dakota, according to school administrators.

A survey by the School Administrators of South Dakota group found that nearly one-third of the 837 open positions advertised for the upcoming school year remained unfilled as of the end of May. The number of openings was up 4 percent from last year’s survey, while the number of applicants dropped 25 percent.

“The teacher shortage is real and it is only going to get worse,” group Executive Director Rob Monson said.

A main reason that officials cite for the problem is low pay. The annual teacher pay in South Dakota averages about $40,000, which is the lowest in the nation, according to the National Education Association. A separate survey by the School Administrators of South Dakota earlier this year found that more than 770 college students earned a teaching degree at a South Dakota institution last year, but one-third of them took jobs in another state.

“We used to have two file drawers full of applications,” Watertown Superintendent Lesli Jutting said. “Now for some positions we are asking retired teachers to come back and help us.”

Gov. Dennis Daugaard and lawmakers earlier this year set up a task force of teachers, administrators, school board members, public officials and state staff members to look into problems in the state’s educational system and report back to the 2016 Legislature.

“If a long-term funding solution for schools to provide more dollars to teachers isn’t developed, K-12 schools in South Dakota are in big trouble,” Monson said.