Legalizing pot won’t solve the teacher shortage. The Flandreau Public Schools are short a science teacher because they can’t pay enough to keep Chelsey Loney from leaving for a comparable job in Minnesota:
“There are two main reasons for my departure,” Loney wrote in her letter to the school board. “The first is to be closer to family … The other reason is the substantial pay increase teachers of other states receive. Unfortunately, until salary increases occur in Flandreau and statewide, resignations like mine will be a routine occurrence. Geographically, professionally, and financially this opportunity could not be passed up” [Carleen Wild, “How to Hold on to Good People,” Moody County Enterprise, 2015.07.07].
Average teacher pay in South Dakota: $40,023. Average teacher pay in Minnesota: $54,752. Average boost for teachers like Loney jumping the border: 36.8%, $14,729, enough to cover a 30-year mortgage on a $200K house (median home value in Minnesota: $187,000). Flandreau was able to get Loney to ignore those economics for just two years.
Neighboring Colman-Egan has no openings at the moment, but low pay is making it hard for them to recruit teachers and support staff:
Superintendent Tracey Olson feels confident they have all positions filled at Colman-Egan, however, “I know that I have a couple of teachers looking elsewhere due to the high cost of insurance here and the pay. Late resignations after July 1st always put us in a bind more-so than an early one. We have more challenges than just the teaching staff. We are also short a custodian and a bus driver. When applicants find out the salary they are no longer interested” [Wild, 2015.07.07].
Olson, Flandreau superintendent Rick Weber, and Loney all agree that we can’t get around this problem without giving K-12 schools and teachers more money:
[Loney] said that if she was to quit teaching right now and become a scientist, she’d make double her salary and have triple the respect.
“When you tell people you’re a teacher, they say, ‘I’m sorry.’ We need to give respect and honor back to that profession. Part of that is paying them more, understanding what they do and respecting what they do” [Wild, 2015.07.07].
Updated 07:21 CDT: Dang, maybe Rep. Elizabeth May (R-27/Kyle) has the right idea in calling for a special session. Meet August 17, add money to teacher salaries just in time for the beginning of the school year, rectify South Dakota’s long teacher-pay drought. “The urgency of this, we can’t ignore it,” May says. “The immediate issues that need to be addressed are going to be what are we going to do with the teacher shortage to fill these classrooms up” (good!) “and the funding, the mechanism for the funding” (good!) “and we also need to address the state and federal mandates that have been coming down” (uh oh!). Stay tuned for Rep. May’s press conference this morning in Rapid City.