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Under State Employee Salary Policy, SD Teacher Pay Would Be $9,609 Higher

Speaking of South Dakota wages, I continue to gather evidence that South Dakota could afford my moonshot plan to raise our average teacher pay $10,000, to 34th in the nation.

$10,000 may seem like an awful lot of cream on top of the teachers' pie, but this chart from the South Dakota Budget and Policy Institute says we could have done if we loved teachers as much as we love state employees:

SD Budget and Policy Institute: growth of state employee salaries vs teacher salaries, 2000–2013
(click to embiggen!)

South Dakota's average teacher salary: $39,580. South Dakota's hypothetical average teacher salary if we had funded salary increases at the same rate that Governors Janklow, Rounds, and Daugaard gave their employees: $49,189. Difference: $9,609.

Where there's a will, there's a way.


  1. PlanningStudent 2014.08.31

    CHC - If you are comparing with state employees, what is their average salary? Also under 40k I suspect..

  2. caheidelberger Post author | 2014.08.31

    Actually, Pew Stateline tells us that, in 2012, the average state employee salary in South Dakota was $43,507. (Faintly related: Joop Bollen's state salary in 2009 was $87K; his no-bid contract privatizing EB-5 dropped his formal salary to $45K, before commissions and fees.)

  3. John 2014.08.31

    "This reader" - we should also see the same years' comparison using the salaries of the state's law enforcement, prosecutorial, prison industrial complex. Good teachers and school administrators minimize large needs for the former.

  4. Anne Beal 2014.08.31

    Talking to educators from other states I have received looks and comments of astonishment when telling them how almost every school has its own superintendent. In most states, one superintendent of schools for each county is sufficient. Has anybody looked at what could be saved by trimming administrative costs? How many people on the schools' payrolls are teachers, and how many are administrative staff?

  5. caheidelberger Post author | 2014.08.31

    I'm starting to think the "administrative bloat" response is a dodge. It's an easy complaint to make—we all like throwing spitwads at the boss. But we could get rid of every administrator in the state and still not be paying our teachers enough.

    Before I take it any further, let's see if we agree, Anne: do you support my moonshot plan? Are South Dakota teachers worth another $10K a year? Or are you satisfied with teacher salaries at their current level?

    KELO tackled the admin-bloat topic in 2011. They presented 2009 evidence from the Bureau of Labor Statistics that found our K-12 admin salaries to be 48th in the nation (out of 53, including DC, Guam, and Puerto Rico).

    At the time, based on the salary data KELO presented, I calculated that canning all 150-odd superintendents and replacing them with 66 county-wide school administrators would save about $5.3 million. That gives each of our 9,200 teachers a $576 raise, and South Dakota remains 51st. I'll take every step toward a solutionw e can get, but let's be clear: Cutting administrative positions and redirecting all savings toward teacher paychecks does not solve our teacher pay problem.

    By the way, Anne, many school districts cross county lines, so we can't create a system of county school superintendents without some border changes.

    But that difficulty aside, I am curious, Anne: if we do consolidate superintendents for the sake of freeing up funds for teacher pay, does that also require consolidating school boards? Or do you have a proposal for the process by which, for example, Sioux Falls, Brandon Valley, Garretson, Baltic, Dell Rapids, Tri-Valley, West Central, Chester, Montrose, Parker, and Lennox would all cooperate in hiring a superintendent?

  6. JeniW 2014.08.31

    ND School Districts stats:

    North Dakota School District Statistics

    North Dakota School Districts: 253
    Total Students Pre Kindergarten - 12 Grade: 102,233
    Total Males: 52,839
    Total Females: 49,394
    American Indian Students: 8,713
    Asian/Pacific Islanders : 862
    African Americans: 1,233
    Hispanic: 1,463
    White: 89,962
    Total Staff: 15,066
    Fulltime Teachers: 8,037
    Ungraded Teachers: 0
    North Dakota Pre Kindergarten Teachers: 124
    North Dakota Kindergarten Teachers: 278
    North Dakota Elementary Teachers: 4,387
    North Dakota Secondary Teachers: 3,249
    Elementary Guidance Counselors: 156
    Secondary Guidance Counselors: 122
    Total Guidance Counselors: 278
    LEA Administrators: 436
    School Administrators: 395
    LEA Admin Support Staff: 160
    School Admin Support Staff: 322
    Student Support Services Staff: 469
    Other Support Staff: 2,635
    Library Media Support Staff: 191
    Librarians Media Specialists: 198

    SD School District Stats:

    South Dakota School District Statistics

    South Dakota School Districts: 192
    Total Students Pre Kindergarten - 12 Grade: 125,538
    Total Males: 64,874
    Total Females: 60,663
    American Indian Students: 13,418
    Asian/Pacific Islanders : 1,310
    African Americans: 1,903
    Hispanic: 2,268
    White: 106,638
    Total Staff: 19,041
    Fulltime Teachers: 9,244
    Ungraded Teachers: 1,015
    South Dakota Pre Kindergarten Teachers: 120
    South Dakota Kindergarten Teachers: 392
    South Dakota Elementary Teachers: 5,113
    South Dakota Secondary Teachers: 2,604
    Elementary Guidance Counselors: 205
    Secondary Guidance Counselors: 123
    Total Guidance Counselors: 328
    LEA Administrators: 445
    School Administrators: 403
    LEA Admin Support Staff: 331
    School Admin Support Staff: 471
    Student Support Services Staff: 1,146
    Other Support Staff: 2,737
    Library Media Support Staff: 73
    Librarians Media Specialists: 146

    The question I have for Anne, which educators in which states did you talk to? SD schools are spread very far apart. IA and MN have a greater population than SD, so it would seem like the most appropriate comparison would be ND. Have you had a chance to visit with any of the educators in ND?

  7. bearcreekbat 2014.08.31

    First, I think you are absolutely right Cory, "the "administrative bloat" response is a dodge. It's an easy complaint to make—we all like throwing spitwads at the boss."

    That seems a common tactic these days - find someone to blame that actually has little relevance to an issue. School administrators have significant responsibilities and help a school function. Attacking their salaries is a dodge and it is based primarily on stereotyping with little or no knowledge about the work they do.

    Second, I hope this does not turn into an argument that state employees are overpaid. State employees include members of our families, our neighbors, our friends, and other humans who are trying to do decent work and deserve decent pay for their work.

    And third, thank you JeniW for providing useful and informative comparisons of the SD and ND educational systems!

  8. grudznick 2014.08.31

    If the average state salary is $43K why does this graph show it at $50K? It makes me wonder if the Pews are giving bogus numbers or the SD Government Budget Policy office is giving bogus numbers.

  9. Greg 2014.09.01

    I think teacher pay is too low but we must not compare a 10 month working year to a 12 month working year that a state employee would work.

  10. caheidelberger Post author | 2014.09.01

    You're right, Greg: we should not compare a 10-month work year to a 12-month work year.

    However, teachers will respond that they spend those two months you perhaps think of as vacation taking classes, reading, researching, and preparing new materials and lesson plans for the coming school year.

    Even if you don't accept that contention, Greg, I'll point out that the SDBPI isn't comparing unequal work schedules. SDBPI is saying that if we had made the same effort to raise teacher pay that Janklow, Rounds, and Daugaard made to raise state employee pay, teachers would be $9,600 to the good, we'd rank in the mid-30s, and my moonshot plan would be unnecessary. What's not valid about that comparison?

    But even if you don't accept that comparison, I'll cede the point and say we shouldn't compare South Dakota K-12 teacher to SD state employees. We should compare South Dakota K-12 teachers to North Dakota, Minnesota, Iowa, Nebraska, Wyoming, and Montana teachers, all of whom work similar school years and get paid gobs more than South Dakota teachers. Even if you think teachers sunbathe all summer (ha! see if you can fend off images of your physics teacher in a bikini), they can enjoy that sunbathing for better pay everywhere else.

    The 10-month work year is a weaker dodge than the admin-bloat argument. It does nothing to justify our devaluation of teachers or to explain why we cannot or should not make my moonshot plan happen. Teachers are worth it.

  11. caheidelberger Post author | 2014.09.01

    Grudz, you're bogus, not the data. There's a year gap between the Pew data I cite in the second comment and the SDBPI chart in the original post. The two figures may also be based on different counts of state workers; I'd need to dig into the methodology to find out.

  12. larry kurtz 2014.09.01

    What is the education requirement of Joe Blow state employee?

  13. JeniW 2014.09.01

    The education requirements are different for the different positions.

    Most, if not all, require at least graduation from high school or a G.E.D., beyond that, it depends on what skills and training are needed to fulfill the job responsibilities.

    A teacher has to have certain degree and training than someone driving the state snow plows. The drivers of state snow plows have to have certain licenses and skills that a state social worker has to have.

  14. bearcreekbat 2014.09.01

    And don't forget, teachers are required to take classes each summer at their own expense to maintain certification and to continue to teach in SD.

  15. JeniW 2014.09.01

    I meant to write that drivers of snow plows have to have licenses and skills that social workers do not have to have.

  16. Jana 2014.09.01

    I think Anne is trying to make the case for the consolidation of school districts. I'll let the locals fight that out with the GOP.

    Just out of curiosity, how much would that save? How much of a burden would that be on students, teachers, school boards and citizens?

  17. Steve Sibson 2014.09.01

    How much money goes for early retirement? Perhaps if retirement was at 65 instead of 55, not only would more money go to salaries, we would also have less of a teacher shortage.

  18. JeniW 2014.09.01

    Steve S., that is not necessarily true.

    Early retirement means receiving less benefit amount than waiting until the age of 65. The longer of waiting to receive benefits, the more in benefits. Teachers can quit teaching at any age, and can wait until they are 65 or older to start receiving benefits.

    By the age of 55 or 60, some teachers will have been teaching for 25+ years. That is a long time. Some teachers retire early because their job is too physically demanding.

  19. JeniW 2014.09.02

    Is there really a concern about teachers and education beyond the lip service?

  20. caheidelberger Post author | 2014.09.02

    From this blog there is, JeniW. And where did you get those stats above? Are they from NEA?

  21. caheidelberger Post author | 2014.09.02

    Early retirement? Another distraction. You can't pay teachers out of the South Dakota Retirement System funds, can you?

  22. JeniW 2014.09.02

    Cory I found the numbers via internet search:

    I used wording such as "number of school districts in north dakota." There is a listing of web-sites, I just happened upon the below:

    That is for ND. I searched for the same using SD.

    I asked about the concern about teachers and education to give it a test:

    If the video lottery revenue were to decrease, and assuming that the state reserves would not be used to support salary or education in general, would the people living in SD approve of increasing the sales tax if the revenue generated from the increase would be restricted to teachers' salary and education in general?

    I could be wrong, but I am guessing that there would be a very loud protest.

  23. caheidelberger Post author | 2014.09.02

    That question—will you pay more?—is the rubber-meeting-road question. Every time we discuss teacher pay, that should be the first question, before getting into any minutiae about admin-bloat or 10-month-vs-12-month or early retirement or any other distraction. Are teachers worth more than what we pay them? If so, are we willing to pay that amount straight out of our pockets?

  24. Jenny 2014.09.02

    One thing I've noticed in the MN educational system, if you have a master's degree, a teacher will get paid quite a bit more - $65,000-75000/yr. Is getting a master's degree in SD an incentive? Would they take that into consideration?
    (Several of my daughter's teacher had master's degree and were in that pay range.)

  25. Jenny 2014.09.02

    Cory - another interesting thing I've notice. How come SD K-12 salaries are not in the SD state employee internet database? Minnesota's K-12 salaries are. Maybe SD state govt is ashamed they pay their teachers that low.

  26. caheidelberger Post author | 2014.09.02

    Higher pay for graduate degrees varies from district to district; there is no state mandate on that salary point.

    Minnesota posts K-12 salaries by teacher? Interesting! The South Dakota database only includes state employees, and we teachers are local school district employees. Remember: technically, the Governor is right when he says local districts decide how much to pay their employees. The state only sets the parameters in which teacher pay is possible.

  27. Craig 2014.09.02

    We should address school consolidation, excessive administration and the like, but that still doesn't address the issue of teacher compensation. We could fire every administrator in the state, and consolidate into a total of five districts and still be 51st in teacher pay - thus that is the core issue here.

    There is no doubt in my mind we need to pay teachers more. The only question is how do we do it? If we allocate more funds to education there is no guarantee it will go directly into teacher salaries, so perhaps the legislature needs to pass specific legislation mandating an increase of $2,000 a year for the next five years per teacher WITH the state funding to pay for it. Then the districts can go back to routine merit increases, but there has to be a mechanism in place to continually compare teacher salaries with those of neighboring states to ensure we don't fall behind again.

    By raising the salaries in a phased approach, it will be less of an impact to the state budget, and won't be a reason to be so fearful. It would also help attract new teachers and retain those good teachers that might otherwise flock to neighboring states.

    However, we also need to ensure the general education formula also continues to grow, because we cannot make the excuse that the increase in teacher pay should come out of the normal formula. I don't believe anyone will say our schools are overfunded - so the legislature needs to address the problem and stop kicking the can down the road.

    The question is, who in our state legislature is brave enough to push such an idea? Forming working groups and policy research teams and committees to discuss the issue year after year doesn't work. It is far past time for works and time for action.

    I can promise the taxpayers that every dollar you put into teacher salaries will more than come back to them in the end with worker retension, lower societal costs, and economic development.

    Ignoring teacher pay is like ignoring the squealing brakes on your car while you spend money on a new pine tree air freshner. Sure you might save some money up front, but a few years down the road when your brakes fail and it results in a collision coupled with a three day hospital stay, you'll realize that $300 brake job would have been much cheaper than the $3,000 in deductible payments.

  28. larry kurtz 2014.09.02

    66 county seats, 14? state-supported 'universities' and myriad prisons: red state failure on parade.

  29. Craig 2014.09.02

    Note in my prior post 'works' should be 'words', 'retension' should be 'retention' and 'freshner' should be 'freshener'. Alas my public school learnin' is no match for an adapted reliance upon modern spell-check software.

  30. Greg 2014.09.02

    Cory, we do agree that teachers need more pay, now we have to find the revenue for an increase. Where are we going to get the money as our state budget is pretty well spoken for. It will take an increase in state revenue. Voters don't want a sales tax or a state income tax. Where do we get the money without putting a burden on the people. It has to be fair or it will never happen.

  31. caheidelberger Post author | 2014.09.02

    Greg, the assumption in your statement is that South Dakota taxpayers are saying they do not respect teachers enough to foot the bill for the pay teachers deserve. What is fair about putting the burden entirely on teachers to give the taxpayers full service without receiving a full wage?

    If that's the position the majority takes—if "teacher pay" is translated as "more state revenue", which in turn is translated as "off limits" and "unelectable"—then talk of respect for education is lip service, and South Dakotans will suffer mounting consequences of teachers abandoning ship. How far will South Dakota voters let things slide?

  32. Greg 2014.09.03

    Cory, I will ask you again where do we get the money to raise teacher pay. I spent 9 years on a school board and we increased teacher pay by an opt out, but just kept up with other schools. The voters are not educated to know how school funding really works and have the perception that schools have huge surpluses. Tell us how you would get the money.

  33. Bill Dithmer 2014.09.03

    " What is fair about putting the burden entirely on teachers to give the taxpayers full service without receiving a full wage?"

    Its fair like having people that have never had a child in school still pay for others that do.

    Craig is right. Years ago the state passed a law that said school districts couldnt hold over so much money for building projects. Thats why so many bond votes are neccessated.

    Say heres an idea. How about a school tax? If you have kids in school and dont pay enough taxes to support their schooling, your taxed $100 a semester per child to help cover expenses. There that put the burden on those people that will get the most good out of it.

    I'm sorry as i can be that 80% of the taxes I paid weren't enought to educate the children in Jackson County. If the other 20% would have bought more then one pass with the road grader i might feel different, but it didnt.

    The Blindman

  34. bearcreekbat 2014.09.03

    "Its fair like having people that have never had a child in school still pay for others that do."

    I agree that this is fair as public education for our fellow human beings benefits us all. I can't imagine how much worse off we would be if we didn't try to educate all children, whether we had any ourselves or not.

  35. Bill Dithmer 2014.09.03

    Bat I agree that we should try to educate every child, i just disagree on the funding source. Lets face it, these people never paid it forward where their kids are concerned. I wasn't in bed with them enjoying a happy ending that created a baby. No they were able to do that on their own.

    Somehow along the way I aquired part ownership of a couple thousand kids that I had nothing to do with creating. Maybe if the split was 20% for education and 80% for all the other things that the countries need I'd be happy but I know that isnt going to happen.

    Until there is a change in the funding formula for education the percentage of taxes spent on education will continue to go up while the percentage that is left for everything else will go down. Actual law enforcement would be nice, and a decent road. Those will both be a thing of the past if we keep driving down the same road.

    The Blindman

  36. bearcreekbat 2014.09.03

    "Somehow along the way I acquired part ownership of a couple thousand kids that I had nothing to do with creating."

    Me too Blindman! As I see it, we all belong to the human race. After all, we are all in this together. The better other humans have it and the smarter they get, the more you and I actually benefit!

    As for funding it, I am pleased that a large chunk of tax dollars go toward education, even if I have no way of assuring that is how my own personal tax payments are spent. I would have have my hard earned tax dollars go to fund education, instead of, for example, paying an estimated $350,000 for a Republican lawsuit against the President or to fund a pre-emptive war that kills thousands of innocent people to protect our access to oil. But once the money is paid in I recognize I lose control of how it is actually spent. If I had control I would see that a nice chunk of tax dollars went to great poets and songwriters like you! Indeed, poetry and songwriting would be part of our educational curriculum if I was in charge.

  37. Craig 2014.09.04

    Bill: "Its fair like having people that have never had a child in school still pay for others that do."

    I'm trying not to take your statement too literally Bill as I'm sure that wasn't your intent, but I have heard this argument from people in the past.

    Think of it this way - I've never had cancer, but yet my tax dollars are spent on grants to Universities and Research Hospitals to develop new and improved cancer treatments.

    I have a friend who cannot get a driver's license because of poor vision, but her tax dollars still help pay for roads and bridges.

    I've never had a housefire, but I still help pay for our Fire Department.

    The point is, we may not get any direct benefit from many of the taxes we pay, but in terms of a better society there is a significant indirect return on our investments. Imagine the chaos that would ensue if we failed to educate children or if we required parents to fully fund it. The children of the middle and upper classes may do fine, but what about children who are part of low income households?

    For every dollar we spend on education, we get much more in return, and the societal cost savings are significant. Studies have shown spending on education is more than ofset with reductions in social programs such as food stamps, welfare, and lower costs from crime reduction etc.

    Aside from all of the above, don't think of it as paying for someone else's children to attend school - think of it as paying back the debt you incurred when you attended school. The generations before us thought us worthy of a state-funded education so the least we can do is pay it forward.

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