It's hard to choose which quote to run first on new data showing South Dakota's abysmally low K-12 teacher salaries.
Democrat David Newquist sees the data reinforcing his frequent lament, "And folks keep puzzling about why the young and talented don't want to live here."
Republican John Tsitrian calls the numbers a grave liability to Governor Daugaard's economic development efforts. Tsitrian wonders if Team Daugaard is "overlooking, if not altogether ignoring, a major component of the state's infrastructure--the quality of its professional educators--when touting the benefits of life and work in South Dakota."
Arch-conservative Gordon Howie, who scornfully compares U.S. Senate candidate Mike Rounds's various sources of easy income to the paltry but hard-earned pay of our teachers.
Permit me to adapt Howie's approach to the topic: at $39,580 a year, the average South Dakota teacher will not earn in eleven full school years what Richard Benda finagled for two years of "monitoring" two loans to one doomed company in Aberdeen.
Richard Benda invested great energy and brainpower in marketing and recruiting and elaborate corporate financing schemes to infuse risky business ventures with millions of EB-5 visa investment dollars. Governor Dennis Daugaard dreamed up some creative bookkeeping to turn one-time revenues into millions in ongoing savings. If we could find one policy wonk who could apply just a quarter Benda's and Daugaard's fiscal creativity to K-12 education, maybe we could find the eighty* million dollars it might take to bring our K-12 teachers salaries up to parity with our cheapest neighbor, North Dakota.
Low teacher pay has plagued South Dakota for decades. Are we ready to end this embarrassment, this failure, this ongoing degradation of our quality of life? Or will we just shrug and keep telling teachers that we value them less here than any other state on our borders or across the country does?
Update 08:30 CST: A commenter catches a missing zero in my casual math. I originally posited that eight million would do the job, but if we have about 9,000 teachers and need about $8,000 for each, that would be $72,000,000. I round up to $80M in case I'm missing some teachers in my count. If $80M does the job, we need to figure out a way to get $100 more from each person in South Dakota to pay teachers what North Dakota thinks they are worth.