Mitchell school superintendent Dr. Joseph Graves admits that he's ambivalent about Governor Dennis Daugaard's proposed summer study of education... which, for a guy who has flacked for the Governor's worst policy whims, could be read as stern condemnation.

But I'm not fooled. Graves cocks an eyebrow at the summer study, then returns to his usual form of giving us darn teachers both barrels. Check out the ink Graves devotes to thinking up ways to make sure that, even if we decide we can pay teachers more, we sure as heck won't pay more teachers:

Alternatively, there may be other options for increasing average teacher compensation levels other than the straightforward and endlessly offered by educators and their lobbyists: give the schools more so they can pay teachers more. If schools, for example, were to present more online coursework and more virtual offerings, costs would decline and current revenues could be used to enhance teacher pay. If the state were to offer tax incentives for parents enrolling their children in private schools or homeschooling their progeny, the resulting savings from more parents choosing such alternatives could be used to increase the per pupil support of students who remained in traditional classrooms [Joseph Graves, "Don't Meet Me in the Middle," Mitchell Daily Republic, 2015.02.16].

Online classes make costs decline by allowing schools to cut teachers from the payroll. Ditto Dr. Graves's private/homeschool scenario: incentivize draining public school enrollment, force public schools to lay off teachers, then split the savings between the remaining public school teachers and the ongoing subsidies for largely religious education. Graves is simply roadmapping a plan to increase pay for fewer teachers and further weaken one of the few bastions of labor power and intellectual opposition in South Dakota. It's policy dreck but political genius.

But since teachers like me call his proposal dreck, Graves says we're to blame for political resistance to higher teacher pay:

Yet educators don't typically endorse such proposals, leaving us open to the criticism that we endorse only the idea of giving us more money with no changes in how we do things and no rules on how we spend it. This view of educators is reinforced by the fact that we have had our hands out to the Legislature, demanding more money, every year since Dakota was a territory [Graves, 2015.02.16].

I'm curious, Dr. Graves: what do we have to change to justify our continual requests not to be last in the nation in teacher pay? What extra work do teachers do in Minnesota, Iowa, Wyoming, and Montana to earn more pay than teachers in South Dakota? What new rules must we adopt from every other state in the country that would finally warrant pay parity?

So is that image of our state's educators as woe-is-me mendicants due to the fact that we are starving, or because we are mulish monoliths refusing to engage in more efficient means of serving students? [Graves, 2015.02.16]

Short answer, Joe: we are starving. If your long alternative were correct, we would have to accept that we monolithic mules have been uniquely wasteful for our state's entire history, and that our Legislature and school boards have responded not by rooting out that waste and hiring good, efficient teachers but by simply depressing teachers wages to the lowest level in the nation. In Graves's excuse-iverse, South Dakota's leaders must be more interested in standing in the mud whipping their mules than in buying good horses and getting to town.

Dr. Graves wants to address the teacher shortage by getting rid of teachers. I unambivalently reject his plan and mulishly stick my own: fix the teacher shortage by paying teachers more.