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Daugaard’s Advice: Don’t Do South Dakota Politics; Other States Pay Better!

Governor Daugaard's persistent denigration of the liberal arts as disciplines that don't pay off gets me thinking about his current profession. Permit me to rewrite Steve Young's Monday report on the Governor's advice to our best and brokest:

High school graduates considering a career in public service in South Dakota but looking at $25,000 in debt for a college degree should do the math first, Gov. Dennis Daugaard says.

What is more likely to pay off those loans, the governor asks: A good-paying job in state government in neighboring states — such as North Dakota, Minnesota, and Iowa — or a job in South Dakota government?

“I’m not trying to tell people what to do or where to live,” Daugaard said. “I just want them to have their eyes open about it. I know it’s a fact that it’s harder to pay the bills as governor or legislator in South Dakota than it is in most other states.”

To some, the governor’s ongoing push for workforce development in only those fields that pay top dollar seems to bring with it a blanket dismissal of public service in South Dakota.

Daugaard would argue that he’s simply making an economic observation about student debt at a time when evidence shows young people who want to be governors and legislators can make more money in 43 other states [Yves Stung, "High Salaries Key—Low-Paying Jobs Not Worth Doing," snark-universe edition of that Sioux Falls paper, 2014.09.15].

But we don't choose to run for office to make money, the responsible statesman says. We run for office to serve the public, to lead important conversations, to make a difference.

Exactly. It would be absurd to encourage young people to consider running for the Minnesota Legislature instead of the South Dakota Legislature just because they'd make a five-times-larger paycheck. It would be irresponsible to urge our Dusty Johnsons and Tony Venhuizens to move their aspirations to Pennsylvania, where they could make 87% more as governor.

It is just as irresponsible for our Governor, as it would be for a guidance counselor or a parent, to use his position of influence to celebrate one field of work based on the opportunity for financial gain and not affirm with equal passion the social value of all the other work—writing, painting, philosophizing, politicking, teaching, parenting—that may not put as many bucks in the bank but offers opportunities for service and fulfillment.

But if the Governor wants to persist in his money-über-alles college advice, then he should practice what he preaches, quit his current job, and seek more gainful employment governing another state... or take up welding.

We don't read and write poetry because it's cute. We read and write poetry because we are members of the human race. And the human race is filled with passion. And medicine, law, business, engineering, these are noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, romance, love, these are what we stay alive for [John Keating, written by Tom Schulman, Dead Poets Society, 1989].


  1. mike from iowa 2014.09.18

    Rounds/Daugaard dupe Bollen got his,got the state's share,too. Instead of recapturing the fees for the state,much needed revenues imho,they let Bollen run off with the treaure and killed the goose that laid the golden egg. Bollen set up the state as his personal dairy and milked it for millions. The teat went dry,but Bollen skimmed the cream and soured the rest.

  2. Michael B 2014.09.18

    I'm friends with Mathew Wollman who is running for the SD House. He is an ambitious college student attending DSU. He spent a few years in the United States Marine Corps before returning to Madison to go to school.

    We need young candidates like Mr. Wollman from BOTH parties to step up and run for office. They will help balance out the cynics in Pierre. The legislature needs more youth and women among their ranks.

  3. caheidelberger Post author | 2014.09.18

    I agree, Michael: we need more young people committed to ideals larger than filling lucrative market demands.

  4. JeniW 2014.09.18

    Owen, I think that teacher shortage is a priority, but so are a lot of other issues. It is a question of which priority is of higher priority than the others, how to deal with them, and how much money to allocate to what programs and services.

    I am not involved in the education field, and do not know of any teachers other than one person who was a substitute teacher, and one that currently is. So I really cannot say, but, based on my readings of articles and comments, there is a lot more involved than just what the teachers earn.

    Some of the issues seem to be around logistics (20+ first and second graders who need help with taking off, and putting on winter gear.) Trying to live up to the expectations set by the School Board, the state and federal guidelines. Parents who are unable or unwilling to assist their children with school topics. Making sure that high school students meet the qualifications to play on a team sport. Being expected to accomplish much with little resources, and being taken for granted.

  5. owen reitzel 2014.09.18

    I agree JeniW. There are a lot of priorities that need attention in South Dakota. But for what Daugaard wants to do it has to start with education and he fails to even mention what he's going to do for education.
    My dad was a teacher and my wife has been a teacher for over 30 years. I've seen the dedication it takes to be a teacher. I see the hours my wife puts in. up early in the morning and correcting papers late into the night.
    She and other teachers have earned higher pay. But nothing is going to change with Republicans in charge.
    The only priority Republicans have is business and how to make their buddies more money.

  6. Wayne B. 2014.09.19

    Cory, your re-hash of Gov. Daugaard's message misses the analogy mark. In order to effectively mad-lib his speech, you really ought to be holding constant the message; the message is choose X profession over Y profession because of the monetary advantages (rather than choose X profession in this state over X profession in that state).

    Honestly, it's advice I wish more student counselors provide. NPR is doing a great series on biomedical PhDs who were basically hoodwinked into thinking they'd get good jobs, yet it's clearly a pyramid scheme. Doesn't matter if it's STEM, liberal arts, or a technical trade - people really should be made aware of trends in the market place so they can choose the best course for their profession.

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