Press "Enter" to skip to content

18 Legislators Decline to Acknowledge South Dakota Teacher Shortage

Last updated on 2014.01.20

The South Dakota House of Representatives took up its first two resolutions of the 2014 Legislative session on Thursday. House Concurrent Resolutions 1001 and 1002 both affirm the lack of resources that South Dakota school districts face. HCR 1001 calls on schools to buck up and work together. HCR 1002 says we're short on teachers and need to explore policies like tuition reimbursement to recruit and retain good teachers.

HCR 1001 whistled through the House Thursday after just two speeches in favor on a unanimous vote. But when the House turned to HCR 1002, as I suspected, some legislators found even the toothless acknowledgment of a problem too much to stomach.

Rep. Jacqueline Sly (R-33/Rapid City) said the interim education committee on which she served was not charged by the Legislature's Executive Board* with finding answers to the teacher shortage and thus brought this resolution to raise public awareness of the challenges school districts say they face in recruiting teachers. Fewer college students are entering education, said Rep. Sly, and our neighboring states all pay teachers significantly more.

Rep. Brock Greenfield (R-2/Clark) then rose to manufacture some umbrage. "Words mean something," he said to justify his exertions against HCR 1002's statement of fact. He claimed to agree with most of HCR 1002 but took exception to the opening Whereas clause: districts across the state, and especially in the rural areas, are struggling to keep good teachers and to fill teacher vacancies... [2014 HCR 1002].

Rep. Greenfield whined that HCR 1002 unfairly singles out rural schools. Yet just five minutes prior to this comment, Rep. Greenfield joined the unanimous House in approving HCR 1001, which contained its own, arguably harsher singling out of rural schools: districts across the state, and especially those in remote, rural areas, sometimes lack the staff and resources needed to provide students with the course offerings, co-curricular activities, or other educational services or opportunities that are necessary or would serve to enhance the students' learning and educational experiences... [2014 HCR 1001].

HCR 1002 just says rural schools especially struggle. HCR 1001 says rural schools actually fail to do something, actually lack needed staff and resources. If Rep. Greenfield's words meant something, he'd have been hotter about HCR 1001 than about HCR 1002.

Rep. Greenfield then dissolved into vague incoherence, saying HCR 1002 held "other issues and implied acknowledgments" that he couldn't support, then closing by saying the Legislature should make a stronger statement than HCR 1002.

Rep. Kathy Tyler (D-4/Big Stone City) attempted to correct Rep. Grenfield's misreading of HCR 1002. She pointed out that the resolition did not say there are no qualified teachers in rural areas. She said HCR 1002 reflected the concerns the interim education committee heard repeatedly from school officials, who said they are getting fewer and fewer applications to fill the coming vacancies of good teachers headed for retirement. She cited one career fair where a school official asked 300 seniors what career field they planned to enter and found only three choosing education.

Rep. Jim Bolin (R-16/Canton) tacitly poo-pooed those stories, calling the teacher shortage "alleged" and "supposed". He said certain academic disciplines, like special education and music, have shortages, but that when he was a history teacher, there was a surfeit of social studies applicants.

Rep. Bolin then revisited 2012's House Bill 1234, the really awful package of school-wrecking reforms that Governor Daugaard tried to foist on our K-12 system. Rep. Bolin pointed out that the voters referred and defeated that measure by a 2-to-1 margin, a stronger rejection than they dished out to a 25% tax increase (Rep. Bolin evidently savors refighting the 2012 election). He was negligent in connecting the dots, but Rep. Bolin appeared to be implying that 2012 HB 1234 was an effort to address any alleged teacher shortages or other problems in education, and that by "thunderously" overturning that measure, the people of South Dakota were saying there is no teacher shortage.

Without letting Rep. Bolin yank me too far into the time vortex with him, I'll simply suggest the logical possibility that in rejecting 1234, South Dakota voters were trying to prevent bad legislation from making the teacher shortage even worse by driving good teachers to other states where they wouldn't have to put up with Daugaard's mad reforms.

Public-education enemies Reps. Don and Jenna Haggar (R-10/Sioux Falls) then piled a for more slices of baloney onto the debate. Rep. Don Haggar said HCR 1002 contains the flawed assumption that teachers leave South Dakota because of low salaries. He said Education Secretary Melody Schopp says pay doesn't affect the teacher shortage.

No, Don, she says it does:

“The teacher shortage is one issue, and I’m sure pay we could attribute as one factor in that,” she said [Jennifer Taylor Gesick, "South Dakota Once Again Ranks Last in Teacher Pay," Rapid City Journal, 2014.01.19]

And the people putting their money where their mouths are on good teachers say it does:

Larry Reznicek, the human relations director for the Campbell County [Wyoming] school district, said he sees a number of applicants from South Dakota who are anxious to work in a community where the pay for first-year teachers with a bachelor's degree is $46,000 a year.

“We’ve been very fortunate,” Reznicek said in a phone interview last week. “It’s been 10 years now since we raised our wages. It’s a good thing. We absolutely have good pools of candidates.”

He pointed out that great pay attracts great teachers, which pays off for students.

“I do know that it’s unfortunate when you’re not paying teachers,” Reznicek said. “The single most important thing to improve student achievement is to have good teachers in front of those students” [Taylor Gesick, 2014.01.19].

Undaunted by fact or his own surely conservative faith in the free market, Rep. Don Haggar asserted that money doesn't translate into performance (memo to Don: your daughter Jenna voted for merit pay twice on 2012 HB 1234) then tipped his anti-public-education hand by saying "we're at a crossroads" that demands we look at "alternative" means of delivering instruction (translation: cannibalize our public schools with vouchers, favor rich and fundagelical homeschoolers like us, and leave the masses uneducated so it's easier for theocrats take over).

Rep. Jenna Haggar then chirped briefly that the House should resolve to thank teacher and reward South Dakota teachers instead of engaging in talk as "politically controversial" as HCR 1002.

Cross-town voice of reason Rep. Anne Hajek (R-14/Sioux Falls) pointed out that the last clause of HCR 1002 offers exactly those thanks (if not any practical reward) to teachers:

...this Legislature joins school officials in acknowledging that teachers are a highly valued resource in this state, and in exploring tuition reimbursement programs and other programs or policies that could help attract more good people into the teaching profession in South Dakota, and to keep the good teachers that are already here [2014 HCR 1002].

Rep. Scott Munsterman (R-7/Brookings) rose to ask Rep. Sly if HCR 1002 accurately reflects what the testimony and findings of the interim education committee. Rep. Sly said yes. Rep. Munsterman then urged his fellow legislators to face "brutal facts" and support this resolution.

48 of Munsterman's colleagues joined him in voting Aye on HCR 1002. 17 Republicans and 1 Democrat voted Nay. Most of the naysayers were members of the arch-conservative wing of the House (Kaiser, Kopp, May...), although interestingly, prominent RINO hunters Rep. Stace Nelson and Rep. Lance Russell were on the Aye side.

HCR 1002 now follows HCR 1001 to the Senate to sniff out more legislators who lack the guts to admit the brutal facts of the burdens their short-sighted stinginess has laid on South Dakota's public education system.

*Correction 2014.01.20 08:01 CST: In the original draft, I erroneously attributed the assignment of the interim committee's scope to the Governor. I regret the error.


  1. Mike Henriksen 2014.01.19

    Word do mean something, and I have stopped listening to Brock's long ago.

    Ironic for him to be the "words mean something" guy, when 2 years ago he was a prime sponsor and chief defender of the "everyone is required to own guns" legislation. He of course later said he was just trying to make a point against health care. Brock is unable to draw a straight line between point A and point C.

  2. Lanny V Stricherz 2014.01.19

    Maybe if we can keep the legislature doing their debilitating best to public education in South Dakota, we can have Teach For America teachers in all South Dakota Schools, not just on the reservations. That way we can pass even more of the cost of education onto the Federal Government, even though we want to keep local control.

  3. Lanny V Stricherz 2014.01.19

    Oh, and did Rep Jim Boliin leave teaching because it paid too much, or was he too good of a teacher to stay teaching.

  4. mike from iowa 2014.01.19

    Cows may come and cows may go,but the BULL in Pierre goes on forever. Do the statehouse janitors get extra pay to sweep all of this stuff under the rug? Gonna guess the janitors aren't allowed to join a union,either.

  5. Jana 2014.01.19

    John has a good column over at the Constant Commoner. I am amazed that they still try and say that the lower pay is reflective of a lower cost of living. And by they, I mean puppet master Tony V. and manequin DD.

    Who the hell is governor of this state anyway...the father-in-law or son-in-law.

    Is there no one in Pierre who will call out the lies and inconsistencies in a public hearing in the legislature?

  6. John Tsitrian 2014.01.19

    Thanks Jana, for some support I checked median home prices around the state and found no wide disparities between WY and SD. Pennington County and Natrona (Casper) County are within 5% of each other, while Custer County is higher by a good 8%. As to Venhuizen's comment on lower taxes in SD, I find that WY has NO personal and corporate income taxes, just like SD. I didn't compare sales and property taxes, but I cannot believe the disparity comes out to the 45% differential that WY teachers have over their counterparts in SD.

  7. mike from iowa 2014.01.19

    Well,alrighty then,it clearly has to be all them tax and spend libruls in Wyoming that skew teacher's salaries to make wingnuts in South Dakota look like scrooges. I'm waiting to hear a wingnut claim that no one held a gun to any teacher's head and made them accept sub-standard pay.

  8. owen 2014.01.19

    I also checked out Johns blog and it is very good. We need to listen to our educators when it comes to Common Core. They should know what works and what doesn't.

  9. Anne Beal 2014.01.19

    Personally I would be inclined to vote against any if those resolutions which just make people feel good but don't accomplish anything at all. The legislative bodies spend way too much time on these things. There are much more significant issues, like affirming state support for unicorn ranches, studying rainbows, and establishing landing zones for UFOs

  10. grudznick 2014.01.19

    Wait until they start trotting out the commemorations that Mr. Nelson will flood the world with. Teachers are going to wish they had that bill back again because at least that one gave the good teachers bonuses and raises. The hell probably cooking in a pot in the back rooms of the legislatures today will have them begging to bring back

  11. David Newquist 2014.01.19

    There is a matter of literacy in the legislative commentary that seems to pass for discussion. There is some incoherence in sentences that come to the legislative floor, but there is an alarming and astounding evidence of problems in reading comprehension. The comments are not matters of differing interpretations. They are errors in comprehending denotative sentences.

    When it comes to teacher shortages and attracting people to the state--especially those who might be interested in the quality of education--the legislature speaks for the state and defines the attitudes and mental habits that form its culture. The quality of life rests upon the quality of minds which propose the standards of life and learning. When people have choices of where and how to live, the political leaders provide a substantial basis for making such a choice.

  12. Anne Beal 2014.01.20

    Who has time for literacy when important things like choosing a state rodent, sandwich, or weed must be decided ?
    Speaking of's high time the farmers started growing it here. For export only of course!

  13. John Tsitrian 2014.01.20

    My thanks, Jana, for bringing that Education Week link here. I've added it to the post you earlier referenced in The Constant Commoner.

  14. caheidelberger Post author | 2014.01.20

    Anne, I hope you'll take that same position when we start getting the usual Republican fluff resolutions about constitutional conventions, guns, Taiwan, and other time wasters.

  15. caheidelberger Post author | 2014.01.20

    John is rocking the blog house. He's making a serious effort to live up to his masthead and become a reasonable voice for finding common ground on important issues.

  16. caheidelberger Post author | 2014.01.20

    Grudz, not one teacher will support your position. Not one teacher in South Dakota will ever say, "I want HB 1234 back." Rep. Bolin and you both are trying to distract from the main issues here:

    (1) Republicans like the Haggars won't vote for anything, even a resolution, that expresses support for public education.

    (2) As Dr. Newquist points out, Republicans like Greenfield and Jenna Haggar fail a basic reading comprehension test.

    (3) To tie those two points and SB 46, the animal cruelty bill, together, some legislators are so welded to their ideological shouting points that they can't give an honest read or an honest vote to legislation that addresses basic (Rep. Munsterman might say "brutal") facts.

  17. mike from iowa 2014.01.20

    Maybe it should be education weak link.

  18. Deb Geelsdottir/ 2014.01.20

    Great links Jana. I read through them and found myself wondering what is going on in Daugaard's head that he thinks anyone wants to leave MN for SD. SD ranks 8th Worst in education. MN ranks 6th Best. Duh.

    In addition, SD pays more per student than MN does!

    "8. South Dakota
    > State score: 63.2
    > High school graduation rate: 76.3% (24th best)
    > Per pupil expenditure: $11,742 (22nd highest)
    > Preschool enrollment: 38.8% (7th lowest)

    "South Dakota got a D or worse in four of the six categories reviewed by Education Week. State level policy in South Dakota does not seem to support successful school systems. Unlike the most states, South Dakota’s early learning standards were not aligned with national K-12 standards in 2012. Also, according to Education Week, South Dakota schools were not adequately held accountable for their performance. Further, key policies designed to improve the teaching profession, including incentive programs and professional development standards, were completely absent in South Dakota in 2011."

    "6. Minnesota
    > State score: 76.7
    > High school graduation rate: 80.4% (10th best)
    > Per pupil expenditure: $11,043 (24th lowest)
    > Preschool enrollment: 46.9% (24th highest)

    "Nearly 60% of fourth graders in Minnesota were proficient in math, based on 2013 national assessment scores, better than every other state in the country. That year, 47.2% of eighth graders were also proficient in math, third highest in the nation. In December of last year, a study by the Minnesota Department of Education found a vast improvement in the chances of Minnesota children starting kindergarten to succeed on third grade achievement tests compared to roughly a decade ago. Minnesota scored well in other indicators for success, including educational attainment among parents. More than 60% of children had at least one parent with a postsecondary degree in 2012, the third-highest proportion in the country."

    SD Repubs can go crazy on Business Climate Giveaways, but they'll never attract a decent, legitimate, respectable company with rankings like that.

    S Dakotans deserve to feel the pride in their state that Minnesotans have for their state. MN government is exponentially better than SD at facing shortcomings and working honestly to improve them.

    To me, a former teacher and coach, the attitude necessary to raise SD's status is what a good coach does with her team. She assesses the team's weaknesses using the record, videos, statistics, expert suggestions from successful coaches, skilled input, books, outside resources, etc. Then turn sharply focused attention on those weaknesses until they become strengths. All the while she must maintain the viability of the initial strengths.

    Would Denver (Go Peyton!) or Seattle be in the Superbowl if they had ignored their weaknesses? Would Peyton Manning be the Greatest Quarterback EVER if he had been satisfied with the skills he had 10 years ago?

    Seriously SD. Pull yourself up by your own bootstraps and get after it! (I'll gladly be a cheerleader for the SD that gets to work.) Go South Dakota!

  19. Jana 2014.01.20

    Slightly off topic...are Isaac and Jenna still an item?

    When is Don Haggar gonna force Issac to make an honest woman of his daughter Jenna? Does he call Isaac his sin-in-law...are they saving themselves for marriage? Enquiring minds and all...

    Oh that's right. Politics are more important than marriage...and one of them having to give up a seat by sanctifying their relationship in holy matrimony.

  20. Jana 2014.01.20

    KELO now has the story up...but alas, no comment section for Cory to link this discussion that has been going on for a couple days.

    Cory leads the news cycle!

Comments are closed.