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Superintendents: Teacher Shortage Real, Low Pay Reducing Qualified Applicants

A new survey finds school superintendents across South Dakota telling ostrichian Republican legislators, "No, really: South Dakota is short on teachers!"

The survey, prepared by USD professor Mark Baron in collaboration with the Associated School Boards and the School Administrators of South Dakota, finds South Dakota schools struggling to fill openings with qualified teachers. The survey focuses on superintendent perceptions of the South Dakota teacher pool over the last three years, since the beginning of Governor Daugaard's fiscal and philosophical war on education.

The key data, based on responses from 119 school districts with administrators averaging over ten years of experience in South Dakota schools:

  1. 78% of superintendents say there aren't enough applicants in the teacher labor pool.
  2. The elementary teaching pool is apparently still in decent shape: only 27% of superintendents see a shortage in that area.
  3. 65% see a shortage of middle school teaching applicants.
  4. 86% see a shortage of high school teachers.
  5. We appear to still have plenty of PE/Health and Social Studies teachers, but we're short in every other field:
Subject Percent of supts. saying applicant pool adequate Percent of supts saying applicant pool inadequate
Health/PE 30.4 17.4
Social Studies 27.4 34.5
Arts 4.6 66.2
English 10.3 80.4
Special Ed 4.2 81.9
Math 1.0 82.1
Career/Tech 1.2 84.0
World Lang. 1.6 84.1
Science 2.2 86.8
  1. 17% of South Dakota schools failed to fill at least one open teaching position.
  2. 70% of superintendents say they had to fill openings with applicants who were less qualified than desired.
  3. 92% say it has become harder to recruit qualified applicants over the last three years.
  4. The superintendents say the solution to the teacher shortage isn't magic; it's just money. In response to an open-ended question about how South Dakota could increase the size and quality of the teacher applicant pool, the four most frequently offered suggestions were to increase pay and benefits, enhance state funding, make salary competitive with neighboring states, and assist teachers with educational costs. (Of those four issues, Governor Daugaard has only gestured toward offering insufficient tuition assistance to teachers in training.)
  5. 70% of superintendents say that non-retiring teachers have left their schools at least in part because of low pay.

Governor Dennis Daugaard has given top priority to making South Dakota a great place to business. He has done little to make South Dakota a great place to teach. Our K-12 school superintendents can attest to the impact of the policy failure on their dwindling teacher applicant pool.


  1. Nick Nemec 2014.02.03

    My daughter is now interviewing for teaching positions. First year teacher positions in ND are offering $8000 more than first year positions in SD. This is in similar sized school districts about 50 miles apart.

  2. Rick 2014.02.03

    Official South Dakota Legislative Response to teacher shortage: Give them guns.

  3. Becca Pivonka 2014.02.03

    Let's see...stay in SoDak and get paid like crap/sh*t...or go to North Dakota, Minnesota, Iowa, even Nebraska (who doesn't pay their teachers great either, but better than SD) for a teaching job....hmmm, unless you are absolutely tied down to Nebraska, probably not a difficult decision.

  4. Becca Pivonka 2014.02.03

    haha...Nebraska on the brain...meant unless you are absolutely tied down to SOUTH DAKOTA. I need a nap :)

  5. Mike Verchio 2014.02.03

    Two things Rick ; when you say legislature you imply both houses . I n this case the "House" did acknowledge the problem . The legislature does not salaries school boards do . Why are administrators ranked so much better nationally than teachers ?

  6. owen reitzel 2014.02.03

    "Why are administrators ranked so much better nationally than teachers ?"
    Who says that Mike?

  7. Wayne B. 2014.02.03

    According to Department of Education statistics , our principals aren't out of line for what we pay teachers. SD ranks 49th for average principal pay, just above Oklahoma & Montana. I wouldn't call a couple places above bottom "so much better."

  8. Steve O'Brien 2014.02.03

    Mike, although by the technicality of the process you are correct that local boards pay teachers not the legislature, it is the funding from the legislature to local districts that allow those payments. When the state chokes off local districts, local districts choke off teachers (and ESPs).

    Our state is willing to invest in economic growth programs, the problem is that within Pierre, schools are not viewed as industries that help growth; schools are incorrectly viewed as only an economic burden on the taxpayer. This view dooms our state's education to pauper status and eliminates an engine for growth that would pay dividends for SD.

  9. Paula 2014.02.03

    I've always wondered. Does North Dakota, Minnesota, Iowa, and Nebraska have a state income tax? Maybe the $8000 more in pay doesn't necessarily seem that great if one has to pay state income tax. Or is that already taken into account?

  10. Nick Nemec 2014.02.03

    Paula here's a link to ND income tax tables.

    In the tax tables for single persons, which my daughter is, it says "If the amount of wages after subtracting withholding allowances is: 4200-40000 tax is .0122% of excess over 4200." Pay in ND for my daughter would be in the range of 36,000. Assuming no other withholding allowances (I don't know if this is a valid assumption but I'll assume zero other withholding allowances in order to get the max ND income tax possible)

    31800x.0122=387.96 max ND income tax due

    Since pay in ND is $8,000 more than SD subtract tax due from $8,000 and she earns at least $7612.04 more in ND. This assumes that all other taxes are equal which I doubt is a valid assumption.

  11. Nick Nemec 2014.02.03

    I don't know how much food a 20 something woman can eat but my research indicates that in ND groceries are not subject to the sales tax, prepared meals in a cafe would be. In SD both groceries and prepared meals would be taxed at at least 5%, 4% for the state and at least 1% for the city. Part of her income tax would be offset by reduced tax on her groceries.

    Here is a link to a ND web site that answers questions on their sales tax.

  12. Les 2014.02.03

    In our area, our schools opt out for better coverage of their needs. Housing cost over SD alone in Nd, Wy and Mn would consume the 300/month extra your daughter brings home.
    Give us the lowdown in a year.

  13. Nick Nemec 2014.02.03

    Les, admittedly I haven't done any research on rents in ND. The SD school is in northeast SD and the ND school is 50 miles north in southeast ND. Both are small towns of similar size. I doubt that housing in the ND town costs $300 more than the SD town.

    But, even if I accept your unsubstantiated assertion that small town rents in two towns separated by 50 miles and a state line differ by $300, she would still be money ahead taking the ND job.

    3600+387.96=3987.96 hypothetical rent increase+max income tax
    8000-3987.96=4012.04 greater disposable income in ND

    Notice I didn't subtract anything for the lower sales tax on groceries in ND. Anything else I'm missing? Anyway you cut it, if her decision on which contract to sign is financially based, she's headed to ND.

  14. Nick Nemec 2014.02.03

    Also Les these are contracts that have been offered so the $8000 difference is a firm figure.

  15. Douglas Wiken 2014.02.03

    Is there an Iowa sales tax on food? Nebraska does not have such a tax and when we were at the U in Vermillion, a bunch of us would go to Sioux City because prices were better, selection better and their was no sales tax on food.

  16. mike from iowa 2014.02.03

    Iowa does not tax food or prescription drugs. Most everything else is subject to at least 6% and as much as 8%.

  17. Jenny 2014.02.03

    MN does not have a sales tax on groceries, but it does with fast food, liquor and food at entertainment events. Looks like SD is the only state in the upper Midwest that gouges the poor with a grocery tax.

  18. Deb Geelsdottir/ 2014.02.03

    An important fact of state taxes to consider, is what you get for them. Good services, infrastructure, education and economic interests aren't free. MN has higher taxes than many states, and that's why the educational system is one of the highest rated in the country, and MN's economy is on an excellent track.

    SD's political leadership cannot get SD out of the hole it occupies near or at the bottom of the barrel, on the cheap. Raise taxes, even on businesses, and put that money to visible use. I think even the tax-averse South Dakotans would support taxes accompanied by real transparency and programs that benefit the majority of citizens.

    Most people will support taxing more and spending more if they can see that they are getting a good bang for their buck.

  19. SuperSweet 2014.02.04

    Based on my 34 years experience in South Dakota and seven in Minnesota I can tell you educators are much better off in Minnesota than South Dakota, irregardless of all the tax calculations that are done to try and convince people otherwise.

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