Governor Dennis Daugaard tells young people that they need to pick majors that will pay off financially. Then he and his party tell young people they need to go into teaching for love, not money.

In that contradiction, something's got to give. In this case, love gives:

The low salary numbers [are] a big reason for low student interest in education programs at the university level, said USD President Jim Abbott.

“Students are well aware South Dakota teacher salaries are low,” President Abbott said. “As a result, they often choose another field of study, or upon graduation, seek teaching jobs in other states [ASBSD, "Potential Retirees Outpace Potential Teachers," Bulletin, December 2014].

President Abbott's assessment comes under statistics showing 1,004 certified South Dakota teachers, about a ninth of the state K-12 teaching force, eligible for retirement this year and only 726 potential teachers graduating from our state's teacher training programs in 2015. Only 577 teacher candidates are in the chute to graduate in 2016.

Well, at least I'm heading into an applicant's job market. Thank you, Governor Daugaard, for keeping my competition low!


Maybe Dennis Daugaard is right: getting a liberal arts degree dooms graduates to crappy jobs... in the Daugaard Administration.

A friend of the blog sifted through public records for information about the educational background of various officials in South Dakota state government. The analysis found a dangerously high number of suspicious characters who studied liberal artsy fields instead of good, solid, breadwinning technical subjects like welding. Among these nefarious scholars of the humanities:

First Name Last Name Title Initial Degree Major
Dennis Daugaard Governor Government
Tony Venhuizen Chief of Staff History
Political Science
Kim Malsam-Rysdon Senior Advisor Political Science
Nathan Sanderson Director of Policy & Operations Agriculture Education
Jim Seward General Counsel Political Science
Jim Soyer Legislative Director English Education
Laura Ringling Policy Analyst English
Kelsey Pritchard Assistant Director of Communications Politics
Grace Kessler Director of Constituent Services Politics
Jim Hagen Tourism Political Science
Melody Schopp Education Elementary Education
Doneen Hollingsworth Health Political Science

An English major analyzing policy! Education majors advising (who'd'a thunk that?)! Political scientists, veritable Aristotles, running Health and Tourism! Is that all the opportunity their liberal arts studies could get these poor souls?

Let that be a lesson to all your Girls Staters as you consider your careers in welding.


...sure, compromise effective policy, compromise best practices, compromise our souls...

I learn from Michael Larson that the meatheads at that Sioux Falls paper think that the "solution" to low teacher pay is for teachers to compromise and accept the worst part of HB 1234, Daugaard's 2012 merit pay proposal. Wow—it's as if Daugaard and the Republicans  are determined to squeeze us long enough and hard enough that we'll surrender to anything, even bad policy that's been proven not to work. (On the failure of merit pay, see also this presentation from 2012.)

Meanwhile, the corporate media crassly tries to spin South Dakota's teacher shortage as just one more spoke in their spinning wheel of anti-union propaganda.

Mr. Larson invokes Patrick Henry. I invoke Nazis. In World War II, we didn't say, "O.K., Adolf, let's compromise. How about you only kill a few thousand Jews?" Killing Jews is bad policy. So is merit pay.

South Dakota teachers have compromised their lifetime earnings potential. South Dakota teachers have compromised on professional reputation and lucrative opportunities elsewhere. South Dakota teachers have compromised on personal and cultural opportunities for their children.

South Dakota teachers have compromised enough. No more tricks, no more back-door insults to the profession, no further degradation of their professional autonomy. It's time for South Dakota to pay teachers what they are worth.


I didn't set out this week to pick on Representative-Elect Lana Greenfield, but her own words are making it clear she will make for easy blogging with her own burbling of GOP propaganda and sloppy thinking.

KELO reports that even Northern State, which produces more new K-12 teachers than any other South Dakota campus, isn't keeping up with market needs:

"It's always difficult to increase the number of majors in the hard-to-find areas," said Connie Geier, NSU School of Education Dean.

With education major numbers overall relatively steady in recent years, Geier wants to see an increase. Numbers vary from year to year, but there are about 20 percent fewer teacher major graduates now than there were 10 to 20 years ago, Geier said.

"We've been larger than this in the past and that would be a healthy growth for us," Geier said.

That could also be healthy growth for education in the state based on information the university receives from schools across South Dakota [Erich Schaffhauser, "NSU Teacher Program Holding Steady, Wants Growth,", 2014.12.05].

Rep.-Elect Greenfield joins the conversation in the KELO-Facebook comment section, which thrills me. All legislators should be willing to interact with the people they serve in online public forums. If nothing else, such online interaction gives us a chance to swiftly correct our legislators when they are wrong:

When the argument is posed that our teaching graduates are leaving the state for higher pay, it can be countered with this article. There seems to be a lack of interest in going into the teaching field...period. We need to turn this around, but the question is HOW [Lana Greenfield, comment,, 2014.12.04].

O, Lana, dear Lana. There is nothing in this article that counters the fact that your soon-to-be fellow Republican legislators, including your son Brock, have exacerbated South Dakota's teacher shortage by throttling K-12 funding for decades. It does nothing to counter the fact, to which every superintendent in this state but Joe Graves will attest, that teachers are leaving South Dakota for states that pay more.

This report actually shows another problem with the Legislature's ongoing neglect of education: salaries aren't high enough to keep existing teachers or to entice enough replacements into the field. The last line of the article has Dean Geier telling Greenfield HOW to turn the teacher shortage around [in Schaffhauser's paraphrase]: "increased teacher pay in South Dakota would help draw more students to the profession."

Rep.-Elect Greenfield is apparently so desperate to excuse her party's disresepect of her former profession that she will ignore the prima facie import of a simple news report. Rep.-Elect Greenfield, can you keep up that willful ignorance for two years, or would you like to amend your remarks and your worldview and use your voter-given authority to look for real solutions to South Dakota's teacher shortage?


Governor Dennis Daugaard offers a little good news for a minority of South Dakota college students but bad news for all Regental students.

In the small good news, Governor Daugaard is willing to spend $1.274 million to increase the Opportunity Scholarship from $5,000 to $6,500. 1,224 new students got the Opportunity Scholarship last year, bringing the total number of recipients in FY2014 to 3,757. Opportunity Scholars get $1,000 during each of their first three undergraduate years, then $2,000 in their fourth year. Given an average yearly cost of $14,037 at our public universities, the proposed increase raises the value of the Opportunity Scholarship from 8.9.% to 11.6% of the price of a public four-year degree.

Opportunity Scholars make up 8.4% of the students enrolled on Regental campuses. Continuing last year's tuition freeze for all of them would cost $6.8 million. Governor Daugaard says we don't have the money for that relief, and Regents exec Jack Warner says the Regents won't push the Governor for another tuition freeze. Students seeking relief from the costs the state has piled onto their young shoulders, you may be on your own in Pierre. Time for some student organizing!


David Montgomery says Governor Dennis Daugaard proposed a "modest" 2.5% increase in the FY 2016 budget because of a slow state economy:

The cautious increase was spurred by a lukewarm economy. The state's revenue is growing slowly — not enough to pay for massive new spending programs.

Instead, Daugaard offered a collection of minor initiatives... [David Montgomery, "$4.3B Proposed Budget Includes $49M in New Spending," that Sioux Falls paper, 2014.12.02].

Bob Mercer calls Governor Daugaard's economic forecast "gloomy":

Coming out of the recession in 2011 and 2012, South Dakota’s economy looked to be on a solid path of recovery. Now it seems the recovery was short. The state sales-tax growth so far in fiscal 2015 that began July 1 of this year didn’t meet the forecast set by the Legislature when the fiscal 2015 budget for state government was approved. The governor’s recommended budget for fiscal 2016 that starts July 1, 2015, estimates sales-tax revenues will grow 4.1 percent. He said that’s below average. He also mentioned that U.S. job growth on a percentage basis is now outpacing South Dakota [Bob Mercer, "Colder Economy Ahead for South Dakota?" Pure Pierre Politics, 2014.12.04].

Wait a minute. Governor Daugaard keeps telling us that if we focus on economic development, that great influx of businesses and investment and jobs will generate more revenue, which we will then be able to use to pay our teachers more and patch more potholes and bolster more bridges without raising taxes. That's the game we've played for four years, and what does it get us? Lower than expected economic growth? A measly 2% increase in education that barely keeps up with inflation, never mind make real improvements?

We can't blame Obama, can we? The U.S. economy trucked along at 4.6% growth second quarter and 3.9% third quarter. South Dakota's sales tax revenues grew by about the same amount. If Dennis Daugaard's policies are better than Barack Obama's, South Dakota should be outperforming the nation.

Are we supposed to wait for Keystone XL? TransCanada already built one awesome tar sands pipeline across our fair state five years ago. Where is the incredible uptick in public revenue from Keystone 1?

Are we supposed to wait for welfare recipient Bel Brands to ship its billionth baby cheese wheel down I-29? The state already subsidized Valley Queen and Lake Norden Cheese into existence with EB-5 money for dairies and state funds for roads and gubernatorial dairy recruitment. Why aren't we already swimming in milky riches?

The whole governmental justification for Daugaardonomics is to produce more revenue for government. But four years of Dennis Daugaard's business-über-alles policymaking has produced no discernible fiscal benefits.

Dennis, you said this plan would work. It's not working. Why don't we try a different plan?

Why don't we try investing some of our own money up front? Let's decide this session we're tired of waiting for Santa Koch and the Trickle Fairy. We're tired of waiting for some Daddy Subsidy-Bucks to move here and plant money trees outside his feedlot. We're tired of imagining we can solve all of our problems with someone else's money.

Let's decide this session that we're going to make a serious, sustained investment in our schools, our roads, and our natural resources.

  1. We're going to raise every South Dakota teacher's pay by $2,500 next year and keep going until the end of FY 2019, by which time we will have raised South Dakota teacher pay by $10,000. We will pay for it by eliminating tax exemptions for commercial fertilizer, pesticides, and certain lodging or by imposing a corporate income tax as a down payment on maintaining a well-trained workforce, not to mention a citizenry fully equipped for democracy.
  2. We will adopt in full the proposals of Senator Mike Vehle (R-20/Mitchell) and the interim Highway Needs and Financing Committee to invest $144 million in unmet highway maintenance needs. (And when John Thune, Kristi Noem, and Mike Rounds fly back from Washington, we will send the Highway Patrol to detain them at the airport and send them right back to D.C. unless and until they have passed legislation to save the federal Highway Trust Fund.)
  3. We will defund the Future Fund and the entire Governor's Office of Economic Development and reassign every dollar and every FTE to the DENR and the GF&P. Those funds and staff will be used to allow DENR to step up enforcement of existing permits and regulations and to help GF&P keep our parks beautiful and accessible.

Investing immediately in our schools, our roads, and our natural resources isn't any more radical than inserting government into the free market to pick winners and hope they reciprocate with trickle-down economics. Investing in good teachers, solid bridges, clean water, and nice parks can't hurt South Dakota. Plus, such investments in public goods are exactly the kind of work government is supposed to be doing (read your Adam Smith, you commies).

Let's just try it, seriously, for four years. January 2019, we look around and see if South Dakota has gone up in flames. We see if we still have a teacher shortage. We see if Bel Brands and Gehl and Citibank have left (on our really smooth roads and stable bridges). We see if Minnesotans are throwing eggs at our Mall of America booth to protest our clean water and nice parks.

And if we don't like the looks of government prioritizing its proper Adam Smithian role of investing in public goods, we can go right back our centrally planned, crony capitalist Do-Guard-Your-Profits-onomics.

Legislators, who's game? You can make that your agenda now... or I can just save that up for our Democratic gubernatorial candidate's platform in 2018.


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.


Governor Daugaard is increasing K-12 spending by 2%... or is he?

The Governor is recommending a 2.0% inflationary increase to the base per student allocation for FY2016, which is 0.5% higher than the statutory required 1.5% increase for FY2016. This brings the per student allocation for general education to $4,876.76 for FY2016, an increase of $95.62 per student over the base FY2015 level [Bureau of Finance and Management, "Summary of Recommended Budget Adjustments," Fiscal Year 2016 proposal, 2014.12.02, p. 1].

O.K., looking good so far. 2% is better than a kick in the pants, and it's better than the 1.5% statute requires. The Governor's proposed per-student allocation also reaches a landmark: for the first time, the Governor is proposing to spend more money per student than Governor Mike Rounds and the Legislature did in FY 2011. But don't cheer too loudly: the percentages are simply catching up with Dennis. His "new norm" of setting education back five years remains the norm.

But wait—read the next paragraph in the budget summary, and you may see that 2% isn't really 2%:

In addition to the inflationary increase to the formula, the Governor also recommends funding for the Technology in Schools budget, payments to sparse school districts, and statewide assessment costs to be included as an additional component in the state aid formula. The budget increase for state aid to general education will be offset by corresponding decreases within the Technology in Schools, Sparsity, and Educational Services and Resources budgets, for a net savings of $2,605,288 in general funds. The net savings is used to increase the per student allocation growth from 1.5% to 2.0% [BFM, 2014.12.02, p. 1].

A quarter of the K-12 increase—the difference between 1.5% and 2.0%—appears not to be new money. It's a budget trick, moving money for tech, sparsity, and tests from a separate column into the general fund. The Governor isn't making any tests go away or sending BIT guys out to fix the schools computers for them or pulling sparse school district fifty miles closer to Rapid City. If I'm reading this right, schools won't really have 2% more money to work with. They'll have 1.5% more, the minimum effort the law says Governor Daugaard has to make.

And minimum effort for education is what the Governor has been doing all along.

Update 06:10 CST: A few pages down, the "Executive Management" budget gets a 15.6% increase. What was I saying about priorities?


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