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Superintendents Insist Teacher Shortage Critical; Legislature Won’t Pay for Solution

Last updated on 2014.07.24

Hey, aspiring teachers! Don't run away! The state Department of Education just announced that your evals won't be counted in your school performance index!

Now if we could just pay you enough to get you to apply.

Superintendents testified to the growing teacher shortage before the Legislature's Planning Committee Monday. Mr. Kallis summarized the supes' struggles as tweeted by the ASBSD:

  • Rapid City superintendent Tim Mitchell, whom the state superintendents just named their superintendent of the year, said one of his elementary schools has had five teachers turn down job offers due to salary.
  • Baltic Superintendent Bob Sittig calls the teacher shortage a crisis.
  • Hamlin and Alcester-Hudson have struggled to hire Spanish teachers. (Alcester-Hudson is still looking; ¡soliciten ahora!)
  • Brookings superintendent Roger DeGroot says he's "never had to work so hard" to recruit applicants. He's having to "convince" applicants to take offers. In Brookings, a beautiful university town, one of the most appealing places I can think of for a young teacher to settle down, raise a family, and pursue further education.

Alcester-Hudson superintendent Tim Rhead understands a big part of the problem is pay:

Rhead believes it all comes down to money. Though teachers in his district may start at $31,000, South Dakota's average starting salary is $29,851. That is a more than $6,000 drop from the national average of $36,141. These statistics come from the Collective Bargaining/Member Advocacy's Teacher Salary Database, which is posted on the National Education Association's website. The numbers are from the 2012-2013 school year. According to this list, Minnesota and Iowa both pay teachers more [Brady Mallory, "Superintendents Fear Teacher Shortage in SD,", 2014.07.24].

An Alcester-Hudson special ed teacher agrees:

"There are a lot of people (teachers) who commute to Iowa. I don't know what the answer is, besides increasing pay," Hannah Swanson, special education teacher, said [Mallory, 2014.07.24].

Mr. Larson reminds us that the superintendents laid mostly identical testimony and evidence before our Legislature last winter but that our legislators took no concrete action to address the teacher shortage. Some Republicans couldn't stomach a resolution merely acknowledging the problem.

I've offered a plan to raise teacher pay. Have your legislators? And if they haven't, are you voting for someone else?


  1. Jenny 2014.07.25

    Meanwhile, silence from the SD democrat party leaders in response to teacher pay. Of course you never expect republicans to even bring it to the table, but where are the democrats? Weiland, Robinson, Wismer.....hello, where are you???

  2. mike from iowa 2014.07.25

    Hudson should consider rebuilding the old Buckaroo Bar in an effort to get this iowan back into South Dakota on weekend nights. I might consider drinking beer again. Although I am not a teacher I could learn them somethings about interstate economics(having been underage for legal drinking in iowa,but not SoDak) and making lots of noise with older vehicles. Gotta start somewhere. :)

  3. Jenny 2014.07.25

    Okay, I've calculated the numbers and someone that's put in working a year on the production line at a dairy union in Rochester MN called AMPI (Associated Milk Producer Inc) will make more than a first year teacher in SD. I have taken out fed and MN state tax also (I'm not exaggerating the pay). SD teacher pay is so embarrassingly low and the only ones to blame are the GOP.

  4. Craig 2014.07.25

    It is very low Jenny, but we do need to keep in mind the average starting salary in SD is $29,851 for nine months of work. Yes I realize every teacher will tell you they work so many more days than the average teacher and how they spend weekends and evenings attending to their duties... but so do many people on a salary - and most of them don't get two weeks off over the holidays, a paid spring break, plus additional flex vacation time / sick time.

    So if we take $29,851 and gross up for a full 12 month salary we get $39,801 (let's just call it $40k). Thus perhaps we need to ask ourselves - do we feel $40k is enough for a job that requires a degree? I think we can all agree that teachers should be paid more - and the responsibility placed upon them is immense, so there should be no argument they are worth every penny.

    However, what would a reasonable starting salary be? Keep in mind a Registered Nurse also requires a degree, and their starting salaries for a full 12 months of work aren't significantly different than teachers. Plus, teachers qualify for a pension plan whereas nurses in the private sector might get a small match on their 401(k) or 403(b) contributions.

    I get the impression many feel we should start teachers out at around $37,500 a year (which based upon 9 months equates to $50k for 12 months). Is that enough, or would we still hear the arguments about teachers being overworked and underpaid even if they were making 25% more?

    Clearly the legislature needs to take action and increase education funding - that shouldn't even be a debate. What should perhaps be discussed is how the funding is allocated - because I personally don't want to see another new football stadium constructed or another raise given to administration while teachers remain 50th in the nation in terms of pay.

  5. mike from iowa 2014.07.25

    Craig,instead of asking is 40k enough for a job that requires a degree,shouldn't you be asking what value you place on your child's education and future? Apparently,from the way red states cut education spending,public education is not a priority.

  6. caheidelberger Post author | 2014.07.25

    Craig, it's not nine months of work. There are the summer classes required by the state to maintain certification as well as by professional dedication to self-improvement. Coaches spend all summer working camps and preparing for the next season. During the year, teachers put in all sorts of extra hours outside of the school day, planning, grading papers at home, and taking students to contests and events. If we want to itemize every hour that teachers put into their profession, we'll come out with an even better case for raising their wages.

    And remember: the supes aren't complaining about wage competition with other fields (at least not here). Even if we buy the nine-month argument, teachers are getting enormously more pay for nine months everywhere else than they are in South Dakota.

  7. caheidelberger Post author | 2014.07.25

    Jenny, I give Rick and Corinna a free pass on the teacher-pay issue, because there is little to nothing they can do from Congress to increase South Dakota's teacher pay. This problem is almost entirely a state-level problem to be solved by the Governor and Legislature. Susan Wismer does have an obligation to be front and center on this issue. So does Mike Myers.

  8. Cranky Old Dude 2014.07.25

    There doesn't appear to be any shortage of administrators to complain about the shortage of teachers.

    How many of the people leaving teaching this season are fleeing a combination of low wages and Common Core? Maybe they are deciding it isn't worth putting up with the BS any longer for that amount of money.

    The school districts should still have some ("Local Control!") some choices in how they spend their money. Maybe they need to raise teacher's pay instead of blowing the budget on non-instructional spending.

  9. JeniW 2014.07.25

    As I mentioned before, if there is a strong dislike of Common Core, the simple solution is to stop accepting education funding from the federal government.

    By cutting the dependency on the federal funding, the SD schools can have complete control of what is taught, whether to spend time and money on standardized tests, and etc.

    Local control can also be better attained by refusing to accept state funding.

    Let each school district be responsible for obtaining its own funding for , teacher's salary and benefits, supplies and etc.

  10. Craig 2014.07.25

    Cory, I'm not debating teachers are paid too little in SD, but my question is... what is an acceptable number? We need to keep in mind wages in South Dakota are low - so if teachers are 50th in the nation in terms of pay, how far out of line is that? (I'm asking questions here - not making statements)

    I do place a lot of value on education but I also acknowledge it would be difficult to pay teachers $75k a year to start - and I also question at what point do we experience the law of diminished returns (i.e. at what point does greater pay not help recruit better teachers)?

    Also, I acknowledge some teachers work more than the required minimum, but again - you find that scenario in all kinds of salaried positions. Simple truth is, we cannot calculate teacher pay while comparing it to other industries without factoring in the fact teachers don't work year round. I could argue Ski Instructors and Landscapers are vastly underpaid too if I base it upon the months of the year they are actually working, but that doesn't tell the entire story.

  11. Tim 2014.07.25

    Craig, you still have not answered Cory's question, what is a good education to your kids worth?

  12. Craig 2014.07.25

    I cannot put a number of that Tim, because the value I place upon a child's education is not directly tied to what we pay teachers. It's a clever tactic of course - because who would ever say they think a child's education is only worth $50, $200, or even $10,000?

    Thing is, if you could guarantee an excellent education for each and every student by raising teacher salaries 50% I'd be the first in line to support the idea, but the real world doesn't work like that. Likewise, if we found we could guarantee excellent education for each and every student by only investing $350,000 per student annually - we would be forced to admit the cost was too high. Does that mean we don't care about education? Clearly not - but as with most things in life there are tradeoffs.

  13. Tim 2014.07.25

    Well, I guess we really don't have a problem here then the way you put it. I guess the fact that we won't pay teachers, which is going to cause shortages of teachers, which will create much larger class sizes, and the only teachers we will be able to get are the ones other states school districts won't hire, won't effect the quality of the education kids get.

  14. Bill Fleming 2014.07.25

    Craig, how about if we expand the concept a little so we can try to put at least a general value on it.

    First we would need to agree as a society that education of our children, ALL of our children is a priority. I can't imagine that being something we couldn't get agreement on, but incredibly, I've heard some people argue to the contrary. I won't go on about who these people are, let's just say they're out there, and we'll just have to outvote them.

    Next, we'll need to decide what level priority our children's education is compared to all the other collective priorities we share in society. Is it #1? #5? I'll argue it's somewhere in that range, at least for me.

    Finally, how much of one's household income should we devote to our children's education? 5%? 10%? get the picture.

    I realize that's not at all how we currently fund education in our country.

    My question is, why not?

    (Average per capita income in the US = ±$50,000 x 5% x 314 million (US pop). That works out to about $785 billion (unless I did my math wrong, which is always possible.)

    Now, here's the Federal Education budget for 2014.

    I don't know about you, but it seems too low to me.

  15. SuperSweet 2014.07.25

    As I have said before, being a SD expat, teachers' salaries in SD are an embarrassment. SD's salaries are the laughing stock among educators in MN. All the rhetoric re common core, summers off, what an education is worth, etc is just a diversionary tactic to continue the status quo.

  16. grudznick 2014.07.25

    Common Core is a boogie man put out there to distract you all from the desire of the powers that be to crunch out bad teachers and pay good teachers on a bonus system based on how good they are.

    CommonCoreBoogieMan gonna get you.

  17. caheidelberger Post author | 2014.07.25

    SuperSweet, I'll come sample Minnesota's substitute teacher pay in September.

  18. Jenny 2014.07.26

    It's true what Super Sweet is saying. In MN, SD is notorious for the slave wages it give its teachers. Actually Cory, I think you would like MN. Tons of recreational activities here and an excellent education system with an awesome governor that puts education at the forefront. MN is ranked in the 24th on teacher salary amongst the states.
    Dayton also signed a tougher anti-bullying bill this year which I was a huge advocate of.

  19. Tara Volesky 2014.07.26

    I think one needs to start with aligning administrators' and teachers' salaries on the same national average. Currently,SD administrators are paid 24th and teachers, 50th in the nation. I think it would also help teacher morel if school boards would stop giving big raises to administrators while teachers get the crumbs.

Comments are closed.