During floor debate on Senate Bill 159, Senator Phyllis Heineman’s make-my-hubby-richer stealth vouchers bill, Rep. Lee Schoenbeck (R-5/Watertown) said that the Governor’s teacher-pay-raise plan would force private schools to up their salaries, thus implying that the state should disregard its constitution and give private schools money to pay their teachers more.
Aberdeen’s private schools are saying the public school pay raises will pressure them to raise their teacher pay. According to Katherine Grandstrand in today’s Aberdeen American News, the Aberdeen Catholic Schools, which pay an average $34K compared to the Aberdeen public schools’ $42K, and Aberdeen Christian School, which pays less and offers no insurance or pension, share Schoenbeck’s worry that they’ll have to raise pay and tuition to compete.
And boy, do they like the idea of the state subsidizing their tuition:
“It’s a step in the right direction for school choice,” [Aberdeen Christian superintendent Eric] Kline said.
The bill has been approved by both the House and Senate, so its fate now lies in Daugaard’s hands.
Provisions in the measure would help families who can’t afford tuition for a religious education, [Aberdeen Catholic School System president Jeff] Simmons said. The bill would also help families who make sacrifices to prioritize a religious education, he said.
“It’s huge,” Simmons said. “Hopefully it will draw a few people out who can’t afford (to pay for) their children to come here” [Katherine Grandstrand, “Aberdeen-Area Private Schools Face Pay Challenge,” Aberdeen American News, 2016.03.11].
A step in the right direction… that’s what ALEC and its corporate vultures who want to privatize education think, too:
The ALEC Great Schools Tax Credit Act seeks to bypass this separation of church-and-state issue by offering a form of private school tuition tax credits that indirectly funnel taxpayer dollars to these institutions.
In contrast with basic vouchers, where the state directly reimburses a private or religious school for tuition costs, these “tuition tax credit” proposals—sometimes called neo-vouchers—instead offer tax credits to individuals and corporations who donate to a nonprofit “school tuition organization.” The nonprofit then pays for a student’s tuition.
The “donation” is really just a way for individuals and corporations to bypass state legislatures and the state budgeting process and reroute tax revenue relied upon by the state to private schools [Brendan Fischer, “Cashing in on Kids: 172 ALEC Education Bills Push Privatization in 2015,” Common Dreams, 2016.03.10].
ALEC wants to crush teacher unions and public schools and turn education into one more profit center. If Governor Dennis Daugaard signs Senate Bill 159, South Dakota will help ALEC toward that nefarious end.
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By the way, how do private schools get rich parents to pay extra money for education they could get for free yet still manage to pay their teachers less than public schools? Don’t be fooled into thinking low private-school pay is proof that public school teachers are overpaid. The wage gap is merely market forces at work. Since private-school teachers don’t need licenses, private schools can tap a larger labor pool—more supply means lower prices.
The wage gap also results from some private-school perks for teachers:
Class sizes are smaller—a 12:1 student-to-teacher ratio, compared with 16:1 at public schools. There’s also less red tape—private teachers answer to principals and parents, rather than to principals, parents, and three meddling levels of government. And the families at private schools are, quite literally, invested in education. A national survey of teachers, asking them about the problems their schools face, paints a vivid contrast:
Whereas many public school teachers spend their days leaping over hurdles, private school teachers actually get to—just imagine!—teach. This explains why they’re twice as likely to hold Ph.D.s, despite earning $6,500 less per year than Ph.D.s at public schools. It also explains why 21 percent of private school teachers have two decades or more of experience—virtually the same ratio as in public schools. They stay because they enjoy the work [Ben Orlin, “Why Are Private-School Teachers Paid Less Than Public-School Teachers?” The Atlantic, 2013.10.24].
Since private schools tap a different market and offer a different work environment, private schools may not have to match South Dakota’s public-school raises dollar for dollar to fill their teaching slots. And with those advantages, they don’t need help from the state. South Dakota’s private schools should look to their own resources, not to mention their good Christian spirit, to pay their teachers what they are worth.