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Daugaard’s Merit and Math Bonuses Don’t Compete with Pay in Neighboring States

Last updated on 2013.01.29

Governor Dennis Daugaard says that one purpose of his merit bonus proposal for the top 20% of teachers in each school district is "to attract more of our talented young people into the teaching profession."

Let's review the average salaries for teachers (academic year 2011) in South Dakota and surrounding states:

State Avg teacher pay 2010-11 Cost of Living 2010 Q4 (US = 100) Avg. teacher pay adjusted for cost of living Regional Price Parity 2005-9 Avg. teacher pay adjusted for RPP
SD $35,201 98.53 $35,726 83.8 $42,006
ND $44,266 95.91 $46,154 84.5 $52,386
MN $53,215 102.23 $52,054 95.6 $55,664
IA $50,634 93.98 $53,877 87.1 $58,133
NE $47,521 91.09 $52,169 88.0 $54,001
WY $57,328 98.66 $58,107 93.8 $61,117
MT $47,132 100.00 $47,132 92.2 $51,119

So suppose you're a young person considering a career in teaching. You compare Governor Daugaard's offer with the average pay in surrounding states. You could stay in South Dakota and have a one-in-five chance of getting an extra $5,000 a year. Or you could go to any adjoining state and have a one-in-one chance of getting at least $9,000 a year. Factor in regional price parity, and even if you get the $5,000 bonus, you still have $3,146 less in purchasing power than your slacker colleagues across the border in Montana.

Of course, if you go into teaching math, you get another $3,500 under Daugaard's plan every year. But if you're that good at math, you'll recognize that the expected value of your hanging around in South Dakota is still $8,000 less than the average purchasing power you'll enjoy in a neighboring state.

And you'll realize that the Governor's math for attracting young people to teach in South Dakota doesn't add up.


  1. Erika 2012.01.15

    So, corporations need "certainty" to succeed, but teachers need a roulette wheel. We really are trying to support education with gambling aren't we?

  2. Michael Black 2012.01.15

    A few years ago everyone was talking about low teacher salaries in SD. We then went though a period of time where everyone was happy just to have a job. So how does supply and demand fit into the amount of money teachers are paid? I've heard of a job opening up and getting a couple of hundred applications. How much does the amount of college graduates with teaching degrees compare to the number of teachers retiring or leaving the profession?

  3. Jana 2012.01.15

    There's a bigger issue here and that is there seems to be very little respect for the hard working class. The powers that be have reduced the people involved in the labor (knowledge, manufacturing and service) as necessary evils to capitalism.

    When you think of Pierre bragging about our workforce...when's the last time you heard them say paid enough to support a consumer economy and build strong communities?

  4. troy jones 2012.01.15


    "Seems to be little respect for the hard working class."

    Sheesh. Just debate the issues and dont pretend you and the Dem's CARE more.

    After the fiasco inflicted on the very people you claim to support by this dip for a President and his minions, I wouldnt infer greater concern.

    If you want to talk real big issues I am more and more becoming convinced nobody hates the poor more than liberals.

  5. caheidelberger Post author | 2012.01.15

    Aaaahhhh! There you go again, Troy. I don't hate the poor... which in South Dakota just about includes teachers.

  6. JohnKelley 2012.01.15

    Finish the argument, Cory. Why are nationally /regionally competitive salaries ESSENTIAL for our superintendents, principals, and college presidents while irrelevant for the people who make a difference in education, the platform teachers? The legislature, regents, education department, and school boards cannot have it both ways lacking empirical evidence.

  7. Jana 2012.01.15

    I'd be glad to debate Troy, so tell us how the Republicans in the State of South Dakota are promoting anything other than promoting and bragging about a low paid work force?

  8. Taunia 2012.01.15

    Where do the students come into this discussion?

    If I were a snot-nosed kid again, I'd have a good time watching some of the less inhibited kids drilling a teacher about their pay, therefore undermining that teacher's credibility, authority, and maybe teaching ability (according to this outlandish proposal).

    "You really do suck, Ms/Mr/Mrs SoAndSo. Why do we pay attention to you when your pay's public, you didn't get a raise, the school board doesn't believe in you and I don't either."

    And that teacher's response is, what, exactly?

  9. Jana 2012.01.15

    Troy, you are also right that the current President of the United States walked into a perfect situation and has made it worse with the help of his minions...hell with the facts...right?

    Calling the President a dip certainly did go a long way in showing your sincerity for having a reasoned discussion.

    Walk us all through again how Reaganomics governing has worked so well that we have the largest divide in income inequality. Tell us again how this inequality and having the middle class go backwards economically is good for the country. Certainly history will prove this to be a good thing.

    Not long ago you lamented that it was impossible to debate people so stuck in their ideology, did you mean people who's ideology disagreed with yours or just in general.

    As far as the discussion on the "real big issues" (which I hope isn't just limited to the big boys) - I'm afraid we would be like the old joke - "if you lined up all of the economists in the world end-to-end they still wouldn't reach a conclusion."

    But please do tell how the Conservative dogma has proven to be better for poor people and even the middle class. The data I'm looking at shows that it has been good for the people that "trickle down," but not so good for those being "trickled on." Hey maybe us poor hating Dems can learn something.

    I am not opposed to changing my mind and have done so on a number of occasions when given adequate reasons to do so.

  10. caheidelberger Post author | 2012.01.15

    Uh, oh, Jana: I think you just identified another way in which Daugaard's merit bonus plan violates the Professional Code of Ethics. We teachers are not to "criticize a colleague before students." If wise guy student asks me whether I got a bonus, and I say yes, I am essentially saying that I am better than 80% of my colleagues.

    I hadn't thought about it from the student perspective, Jana. That's a significant problem.

  11. larry kurtz 2012.01.15

    So, is it really about the money? Geez,

    Cory: I confess to leaning toward accepting a French job in Spearditch over teaching Spanish to migrant kids in Broadus or Sydney for a measly 9k.

    But being stranded in a place like Faith or Eureka would be more like a sentence than a job.

    People take jobs for so many different reasons.

  12. Taunia 2012.01.15

    Further, if I was a parent with a student that was put into Mr. IDidn'tGetARaise's class, I might be asking the school to switch my child from that class to Ms. IDidGetARaise's class. I mean, a higher paid teacher means a better education, right? I want my kid in the better class.

    Therefore, when/if the school doesn't switch my child's class schedule to the more paid teacher's class, then I get to blame the school and the less paid teacher when Johnny fails.

    As well, if Johnny fails in the higher paid teacher's class, it's going to be full-on Armageddon. After all, I paid more for that teacher, and by God, Johnny deserves a better grade than he got!

    There aren't but a few parents that will blame Johnny for anything he did or didn't do.

    This feels like it's edging closer and closer to school vouchers.

  13. Joseph Nelson 2012.01.15

    I have a question for the group. What exactly is wrong with the South Dakota Education system, and how does that relate to teacher pay? Are the test scores low? Are children not getting educated? I would be curious what a table would look like comparing teacher pay to test scores or graduation rates. I ask this, because right now, I live about 200 yards from historically one of the worst school districts in the nation (Anacostia in D.C.). I guess I want the problem solved, but I do not see it clearly identified. Or if the situation is just that SD teacher's do not get paid enough, my questions would be "Is that a problem? If so, why? What are the ramifications of continued low pay?" and then "How does one go about paying teachers more? What situations in the past have led to an increase in pay for teachers, either in SD or a neighbor state?" Would a Union work? Or do teachers in SD not want to unionize?

  14. Jana 2012.01.15

    Oh and Troy, just so you know my frame of reference on Reagonomics, here's one source that might not make it into the Republican reference library, but let me know the parts that aren't factual.

  15. Michael Black 2012.01.15

    Joseph, it's a culture thing. Graduation is important in SD while in DC it is acceptable to drop out.

  16. larry kurtz 2012.01.15

    Heritage and culture education are essential to students with blended families, the banning of books in Tucson whitewashes the achievements of non-European Americans in ways that should frighten every educator.

    Expect this brand of 'education reforms' from Charlie and his buddies in the South Dakota's legislature.

  17. Shane Gerlach 2012.01.15

    So realistically, if one group of high school kids didn't like a certain teacher they could completely screw over that teacher by purposely bombing the standardized testing in that teachers subject.

    There goes a perfectly good teachers bonus...because some kids didn't like him. Look at some of the small school districts. It wouldn't take more than 10 kids together to do this to a teacher. I graduated with a class of 42 kids. If I gathered together just the guys in my class (12) to make pretty designs on the test instead of answering questions (on standardized tests that don't reflect on my scholarship qualifications, graduation, college acceptance or really anything other than measuring if my teacher gets a bonus or not); we really could have screwed somebody over.

    Plus, who is deciding on the bonus for teachers of ag, typing, art, computer science, home ec, choir, band, speech, free enterprise, welding, language arts, and other courses that don't fall under standardized testing?

    The principal?!?!?!

    Isn't that peachy.

    Let's say I'm the spouse of the principal, the brother in law to the principal, or in the summer I have a painting business with him, or we've been friends since grade school or on the flip side I've reported the principal to the school board, or I had an argument with the principals spouse, or we have been enemies since grade school. How is this going to be fair or arbitrary?

    WOW! Governor Doogood's plan has more holes than the "Counseling" law from last know, the one that has been deemed unconstitutional by the courts. The one he said he had money to cover the lawsuit remember that law don't you all?

    Speaking of money-where is the money coming from for this little plan of his. Just a year ago he told us we don't have money for education, that we all were going to have to trim the fat and cut back (while telling the press that if the Fed was to shut down we had the money to keep Mt Rushmore open.) and now he has millions to fund this insult to educators?

    Please tell me this has no chance in hell of passing? (I know you can't as it is a Republican sponsored plan in a Republican run Legislature)

    Why doesn't he just follow State Law and properly fund the school districts??!?!?!

    10 years of disaster in our financing of schools we can attribute to Dudley Doogood while he has been Lt Governor and Governor. The man is in over his head. By his own admission he can't fathom how the cost of education has gone up since the early 70's!!!

    80% of the teachers in every school district will be labeled as failures. Great job there Gov!! People won't give more than a cursory glance at the 20%, it's not human nature. We don't reward the good, we dwell on the bad and attack it and make it worse . Those 80% that don't meet his imaginary line will not only be looked at as failures as teachers, but parents will demand they be replaced or at the least that they not teach their children until they can reach the 20% line. Watch it happen.

  18. caheidelberger Post author | 2012.01.15

    Erika, John, Taunia, Jana, Shane: you five all need to testify when this monster hits committee in Pierre. Excellent points all around.

    Joseph, you ask the salient question. Education Week just rated our K-12 system the worst in the nation. Maybe years of infamy as the state with the lowest teacher salaries in the nation are finally coming home to roost, as a generation of young sensible professionals have taken their talents to other fields or other states where their talents will gain better, surer rewards. That's pure speculation... but then so are the hopes and wishes I've heard so far from the Governor's people about why their plan will work.

    The Governor's plan doesn't identify or address any specific problems in South Dakota education. I haven't seen any numbers that tell us how many effective teachers we have or how many more we can expect to gain from this plan. As you can see from the chart above, the bonuses still don't make us competitive with other states.

  19. Stan Gibilisco 2012.01.15

    As a writer of mathematics and science books, I nevertheless have trouble with the idea that math and science teachers should get better pay than other teachers who work just as hard.

    Doubtless one can argue that mathematics and science have greater utility when it comes to getting a good job than, say, French or history or physical education, but I submit the proposition that we've gone a long way downhill when we no longer place top value on educating our kids to grow into well-rounded adults (and I do not mean obese).

    Yes, mathematics and science represent essential skills for today's work force, while perhaps French and history and physical education do not; but isn't there more to life than functioning as a cogwheel in a machine devoted to endless growth, which humanity cannot sustain anyway?

    Although I make my living indirectly teaching mathematics, science, and engineering, I do not consider those subjects more important, in the overall scheme of living, than any others, including French or history or physical education.

    When I look at the comparison between South Dakota's teacher salaries and Wyoming's, I just cringe. As far as I know, I'd pay lower taxes in Cody, Wyoming than I do here in the Black Hills. What's the deal? What's Wyoming doing right that we're doing wrong?

  20. troy jones 2012.01.16


    Two points:

    1) My comment about him being a dip speaks to competence. I should have been less short-hand. I apologize.

    2) Your comment is two-fold. A diversion by claiming you and those who think like you care more. And then adhominem by dismissing this idea because of what you assert is the message on another matter.

    The rest of my comment was mostly to turn your diversion and ad hominem around on you, ie if the manner of debate is to question motives, use adhominem, this is how it looks. And what does it solve?

  21. troy jones 2012.01.16


    The only argument that is substantive is Taunia's about where kids are placed. The rest are hyperbolic nonsense.

    This issue is important and needs thought. Real thought. And it will involve everyone, parents and taxpayers. Not just teachers.

  22. LK 2012.01.16


    Still waiting to here why Daniel Pink is wrong or why his work doesn't show that Governor Daugaard's merit pay plan won't work.

  23. LK 2012.01.16

    hear not here. It's early

  24. troy jones 2012.01.16


    I didn't see what Pink said. Must have missed your post on this. To what are you referring?

  25. Shane Gerlach 2012.01.16

    Mr. Jones when was the last time you worked with kids? I have volunteered with kids for 5 years now with them weekly. I have some great kids from a cross section of economic and cultural backgrounds. One thing I find equal with all "my" kids despite other differences is the "Us" vs "Them" mentality when it comes to educators.
    I got my idea of sabotaging a teachers bonus from a very bright and devious Junior in High School. Hyperbole? Not at all sir.

  26. Bill Fleming 2012.01.16

    As per Taunia and Shane, Troy, if you ignore the kids in the equation you will fail. They are the "workers" ...the ones who have to produce the results. You don't get them to do that by motivating their teachers. You get it by motivating THEM.

  27. Steve Sibson 2012.01.16

    "You get it by motivating THEM."

    Bill, how to you do that with a socialist agenda...the idea that great teachers and slack teachers get the same pay. Not a good environoment to motivate anybody exempt the sluggards to do nothing.

  28. Bill Fleming 2012.01.16

    Watch the Pink video, Steve. The rewards are seldom monetary.

    Especially as far as the students are concerned.

    Take you for example.

    You will insist on being a voluntarily ignoramus no matter how much money someone offers you.

    It will take a lot more than money to get a classroom full of Sibbys to learn how to reason and be creative.

    That is, if anyone would even want to do the job at all.

  29. troy jones 2012.01.16


    I think Pink's analysis is incomplete which makes it pertinent. He recognizes the need for in organizations that reward excellence and infers to rely only on personal motivation is insufficent. The Governor's plan does two things recognizes excellence and makes it clear it is valued. It is a near universal accepted fact that companies that reward excellence do better over time. The timeframe measured is too short plus doesn't measure what occurs in the organization over time with multiple forms of rewards.


    I meet with young people every week who are not family in an intimate class setting.

    Bill, everything I'm concerned about is the kids.

  30. Bill Fleming 2012.01.16

    Good to hear, Troy. In that case, we need to do all we can to dispel the current anti-intellectualism in our current political system and get back to making it cool to be smart. While this is a bi-partisan challenge to be sure, it is the GOP wing-nuts who have practically elevated stupidity to sainthood as of late. What can we do about that?

  31. Steve Sibson 2012.01.16

    " The rewards are seldom monetary."

    OK Bill, then maybe we need to continue to cut education money. Education spending per student has ore than doubled since 2009 and performance has remained flat. Goal number one should be to get back to the $4,000 per student level.

  32. larry kurtz 2012.01.16

    It's this whole discussion just really just about getting our needs met?

  33. larry kurtz 2012.01.16

    Doesn't life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness come first?

  34. larry kurtz 2012.01.16

    we should enjoy the protection of law, not protection from law.

  35. LK 2012.01.16


    The Governor's data is also incomplete. He is trying things that Pink's research say won't work and will be counter-productive.

    The plan puts money on the table instead of taking it off. It grants less autonomy, requires less mastery, and lowers the individual sense of purpose.

    How excellence is rewarded seems to be as important as whether excellence is rewarded. The Governor's plan seems to get the "how" part wrong.

  36. Bill Fleming 2012.01.16

    "I meet with young people every week who are not family in an intimate class setting." Troy, do you offer them money to encourage them to learn what you are trying to teach them?

  37. Steve Sibson 2012.01.16

    After listening to the governor this morning, it became clear that the top 20% teachers are the ones who are the most effective in indoctrinating the Common Core Standards. I believe in merit pay, but Common Core Standards have little merit. CCS were promoted as saving states money. but Daugaard is now spending $8.4 million to train teachers on CCS, and another $15 million to set up a testing system to make sure the standards are effectively indoctrinated.

  38. caheidelberger Post author | 2012.01.16

    Utterly fallacious, Steve. As I said above, there may be many other valid reasons that we have increased spending just to maintain the results we get. Lowering funding could well hamstring our efforts to maintain those results.

  39. caheidelberger Post author | 2012.01.16

    Troy, I'm not convinced the governor's program can recognize simple logic, let alone true excellence in teaching. Why else would he choose an arbitrary quota instead of seeking and rewarding all teachers who display excellence?

  40. Troy Jones 2012.01.17

    LK, just because Pink says it won't work on static and isolated analysis doesn't mean it won't.

    CH, it is very logical. I think part of the problem is it is being looked at in isolation of what ultimately will be a comprehensive reform.

  41. LK 2012.01.17


    You haven't shown one study that shows the Governor's plan will work in education. You take it on faith that it will work because the Governor wants it to work. I'll take Pink's data over Duagaard's desire.

    By the way, if money is such a great motivator why not pay the students to test well. (yes, I'm being sarcastic)

    In the absence of data, I keep going back to the fact that this is political punishment for a group that tends to vote Democrat.

Comments are closed.