Why go to Mars when you can teach music in Groton?
School superintendents Joe Schwan of Groton and Michael Kroll of Warner take to the Aberdeen paper this morning to offer the Governor’s Blue Ribbon Task Force on Teachers and Students the obvious explanation for South Dakota’s teacher shortage: low pay.
Groton, Warner, Ipswich, and Faulkton have five music teaching positions open right now. Schwan says the Legislature’s funding is far from sufficient to compete with the private sector:
Public school districts are bound by funding received from the Legislature for teacher salaries and benefits, Schwan said.
There have been four individuals that have left teaching for private-sector jobs in recent years, Schwan said.
“I think we’re doing about as best we can,” Schwan said of the tools the Legislature give schools. “We’re not even close to the offers that these people are getting from private-sector places. We’d have to look at close to doubling what our salaries are, and that’s just not fiscally possible with the current system that we’re operating under” [Katherine Grandstrand, “Aberdeen-Area Schools Seeking Music Teachers,” Aberdeen American News, 2015.04.20].
Superintendent Schwan is a realist. He doesn’t say he could recruit music teachers by telling them Groton is a nicer place to live than Mars. He says drawing good teachers may require doubling our teacher pay.
Superintendent Kroll says we can’t compete with other states for teachers:
A recent report release jointly by the School Administrators of South Dakota and the Associated School Boards of South Dakota found that one-third of all new education graduates are leaving the state, which has administrators even more worried, Kroll said.
“From a salary standpoint and a benefits standpoint, we’re so far behind other states,” Kroll said. North Dakota and Minnesota are only a few hours’ drive away from northeast South Dakota [Grandstrand, 2015.04.20].
Refusing to lift our teacher pay from the bottom of the barrel, South Dakota officials have instead focused on secondary solutions like scholarships and loan forgiveness that are conditioned on teaching in South Dakota for a few years. Schwan says those programs are turning out to be short-term band-aids that don’t build a sustainable professional workforce:
New teachers do take advantage of student loan forgiveness programs that the state offers, Schwan said.
“I think what you’re finding — and we haven’t seen it here so much — but I think what you’ll find in schools where you have a lot of teachers taking advantage of that, that once their student loans are paid off, and they’ve completed their time commitment to get their loans paid off, that’s when we begin to lose them,” Schwan said [Grandstrand, 2015.04.20].
None of these statements from educational leaders in the field are surprising. The South Dakota Blogosphere saying these facts about South Dakota’s educational job market for years. If state government just read the blogs (and stopped spending money on ad campaigns that avoid reality), it could save a lot of time and money on task forces and get right to solving some problems.