I've been thinking about a pitch I'd love to hear from any candidate for Governor of South Dakota:
I propose that the great state of South Dakota treat teachers the same way we treat corporations. Teachers and corporations are both people, right? So teachers and corporations ought to respond the same way to state policy, right?
I thus promise that, as your governor, I will turn to all those fine corporations we try to recruit and say, "Come to South Dakota! You'll get fresh air, great hunting, easy traffic, nice neighbors, the works!"
I will also tell them that our state will give them the smallest economic development incentives in the nation. "You corporations are just like teachers. You don't work for money. You produce your goods and services for love, for the pride of a job well done. You don't need a bunch of extra money from our state." That ought to have corporations racing for our borders, right?
I see some of you snickering. If you think corporations won't fall for that pitch, then I propose an alternative teacher-corporation equity policy. How about instead I turn to all those fine teachers we need and say, "South Dakota's a great place to live and work, and we want you to be a part of it. We want you badly enough that we'll pay you to come and stay. Maybe we can't match the teacher pay in Minnesota (yet!), but we can do our darnedest to compete. Here's what we have to offer."
I'm going to offer teachers property tax rebates, just like we offer corporations. I'm going to offer teachers Future Fund grants and special loans to buy and build their houses. I'm going to fly to teacher fairs across the country to personally recruit the best and brightest teachers from other states.
And I'm going to raise the average teacher pay in South Dakota by $10,000. We're going to make teaching in South Dakota a $50,000-a-year job.
Given about 10,000 teachers in the state, that means we have to add $100 million to the state budget. $100 million.
Is that a moonshot? Maybe. But we shoot the moon for big corporations. Why can't we shoot the moon for teachers? And should we really view it as a moonshot to raise our teacher pay to a mere 34th in the nation?
And consider that we could get that $100 million without passing a single new tax. We don't need an income tax to do it. We don't need a new corporate tax to do it. We just to get rid of 17% of the $582 million worth of sales tax exemptions that we hand out as favors to various businesses in South Dakota. We just need to get just a sixth of the businesses getting this favor to pay the sales tax most other businesses pay.
What's good for the corporate goose is good for the teaching gander. If we think we can hire teachers on the lowest pay in the nation, then we should recruit corporations with the least incentives in the nation. But if we think we need to compete with other states on corporate incentives, then we need to compete with other states on teacher pay.
Corporate policy and education policy are both about economic development. I'll treat corporations and teachers whichever way you want, South Dakota. But we should treat them the same.
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Any candidates care to take up that pitch?