In most states, governors would read winning over 70% of the vote for a second term as a mandate for bold, visionary leadership. In South Dakota, such a "mandate" gets us what Republican Senator Tim Rave (R-25/Baltic) calls a "vanilla budget."

Amidst the peanuts sprinkled on the fiscal same-old same-old yesterday, Governor Dennis Daugaard made no mention of teacher pay. Everybody and their ugly sister has been talking about teacher pay, but not the Governor. He tells Patrick Anderson he probably won't support legislative action to dig South Dakota's teacher pay out of its perpetual bottom-of-the-nation hole.

Anderson reports the Governor's lack of vision in the context of new data from the National Council on Teacher Quality that confirms analyses I've offered on this blog for years: South Dakota's cost of living (which last I checked was higher than the national average!) does not make up for our abysmal teacher pay. NCTQ looks at specific districts nationwide, not statewide averages, and looks only at Sioux Falls, one of the best-paying districts in the state. NCTQ finds that even the highest paid teachers in Sioux Falls get far less pay than their most-experience counterparts elsewhere, even after adjusting for cost of living:

The average max teacher's salary of the 113 districts in the study is $75,000, or $68,000 when adjusted for regional living costs. A teacher who works 30 years in the Sioux Falls district makes about $58,000 on average, or $59,450 when adjusted for cost-of-living, according to the NCTQ [Patrick Anderson, "Teacher Pay in S.F. Low in Region," that Sioux Falls paper, 2014.12.03].

Anderson pulls the lifetime earnings NCTQ calculates for teachers in our region and finds Sioux Falls offering the least competitive career deal:

Lifetime Teacher Earnings, in Millions $US
(NCTQ, based on AY 2014)
City Adjusted Unadjusted
Sioux Falls $1,650,000 $1,600,000
Des Moines $1,970,000 $1,800,000
Fargo $1,960,000 $1,850,000
Minneapolis $1,840,000 $2,050,000
St. Paul $2,030,000 $2,240,000

Go teach in St. Paul instead of Sioux Falls, and you put $640,000 more in your pocket over your lifetime. Adjust cost of living, and you still come out $380,000 ahead. That's three, maybe four more kids through college. That's a nice vacation house in Spearfish.

Governor Daugaard and his GOP facilitators in the Legislature will keep squeezing teachers with guilt, hoping teachers will ignore both their own financial self-interest and the Governor's lack of vision for improving their pay. Teachers like me who remain willing to work in that atmosphere of disrespect will sacrifice hundreds of thousands of dollars in practical purchasing power.