Updated: Teacher Pay Plan Not Reaching Target in Mitchell Area

Update 10:36 CDT: Apparently there is some dispute as to what the Governor’s office said and meant in the text provided to and quoted by the Mitchell Daily Republic that I cite below. The Governor’s office says it has not revised timeframe for reaching the target salary of $48,500 to a decade; rather, as I explained in my original post, this year’s target statewide average teacher salary is $48,500, and that statutory target will increase by the index factor each year. That target is an average, not a mandate for each school district; some schools will reach that target, some will pass it, and some will remain behind. 

However, that does not change the evidence that, in the large swath of South Dakota covered by the Mitchell Daily Republic, none of the schools are meeting the target, meaning the average teacher salary in those districts is below the expected outcome.

I leave the original post unredacted below, for linkage and understanding of this correction.

Original post, published 07:57 CDT:

This year’s sales tax-funded teacher pay boost appears to be falling short, and the Governor’s office is trying to make us forget the goals on which it sold that suboptimal plan while confirming one of the big problems with the plan: it pressures schools to shed teachers.

Governor Dennis Daugaard’s teacher-pay plan includes a statutory statewide target average teacher salary of $48,500. The Mitchell Daily Republic reports that not one school in its circulation area has reached that target. Closest is Burke, giving its teachers $7,500 raises to reach $47,864. Salaries in the MDR region range down from there to $39,179.

Governor Daugaard’s office goes into revisionist mode, telling us that annual target isn’t really an annual target:

According to Patrick Weber, deputy policy adviser in Daugaard’s office, the funding increase was never meant to jump teacher pay over one year. Rather, it is deemed a long-term solution, which will take a decade or more to take full effect.

Ultimately, over time, as teachers retire or leave the area, Weber said he expects districts to leave some positions vacant, in turn increasing the student-teacher ratio [Sara Bertsch and Caitlynn Peetz, “State’s Rural School Districts Still Well Behind Teacher Salary Goal,” Mitchell Daily Republic, 2016.07.23].

We knew the Governor’s plan depended on persuading schools to get rid of teachers. But at no point in the debate over the Blue Ribbon K-12 panel’s plan did anyone say that it would take a decade for the schools to reach the $48,500 target salary. The statute itself says $48,500 is the target this year, and it goes up by the index factor every year. The half-penny sales tax increase and funding formula were both implemented fully this year, not phased in; the new revenue and formula should thus be funding the intended salary increases all at once, right now.

No teacher or school board in its right mind would turn back the new money the state is pouring into teacher pay this year. Because raising teacher pay is so urgent, Democrats provided crucial support to the Governor’s plan, accepting teacher cuts and more regressive taxation to fund a plan whose stated target still leaves us last in the region for teacher pay. We at least expected this suboptimal plan would reach its goals this year, and we would be able to come to the next Legislative Session to talk about improvements. Now we’re told we can’t even get to the halfway point of this plan for a decade.

It looks like Governor Daugaard needs a new set of legislators who can hold him accountable for his promises.

22 Responses to Updated: Teacher Pay Plan Not Reaching Target in Mitchell Area

  1. Jason Sebern

    Governor Daugaard’s teacher-pay plan was a step in the right direction. I give him credit for standing up to the right-wing of his party and pushing for reform. Funding the plan on the shoulders of working class South Dakotans is not ideal but something had to be done to increase revenue for said plan.
    Now the local school boards and administrators need to do their part. It sounds like the Burke school district figured out how to make the plan work for their educators. Why isn’t it working in other school districts? Many local districts are spending too much money on administrative and consultant salaries. Take a look at administrative pay in our state … SD is great place to be a school boss (especially in a large district). High pay and lots of low-paid assistants to help do the essential work. The school districts that were not able to pay their educators appropriately are generally the schools who devote too many tax dollars to the administrators in their district. In the meantime, classroom educators are expected to do more with less resources (fewer teacher assistants).

  2. But it appears to have been a smaller step in the right direction than it was sold as.

    I agree that local districts have to do their part. However, even Burke isn’t reaching the target.

  3. Joseph Nelson

    How exactly would a new set of legislators hold Governor Daugaard accountable for his promises?

  4. Details, details, Joseph….

    Throw out all incumbents, elect all challengers, and you get a Democratic majority that won’t roll over and pass inferior legislation. We can hold other bills at bay until the Governor provides the revenue and the formula necessary to fully fund regionally competitive K-12 teacher salaries.

    Actually, we don’t even need a majority to do that. Even a nice one-third in each chamber—12 Democratic Senators, 24 Democratic Representatives—could put a nice parliamentary crimp on things until the Governor agrees to follow through on the bill we were sold last winter.

  5. Where did Burke come up with the money for the increase in teacher salaries? How did they do that Cory?

  6. I have to agree with Jason. I saw many districts use the minimum 85% of new funds on teachers, and give administrators a larger raise than the teachers. Luckily legislators forced schools to spend 85% on teachers and spend down reserves(I would have liked the other 15% to go to support staff too). Some schools boards would have stockpiled money for a new gym or other building projects and gave administrators a larger part of the pie if they weren’t forced to.

  7. In the last legislative session all we heard was the sales tax increase would fund teacher pay increases. It had support from both parties so it passed. I like all other consumers in SD have paid the extra sales tax on nearly all goods that we buy. 2 months after a 12% hike in sales tax we find out that the teachers are not getting the money anyway. I did see that our local supt. received a real nice raise. Where will it all end, we keep paying to support earmarked programs like this and the money stopped a little short. I’m sure there are some newly upgraded sports equipment upgrade that were surely needed.

  8. South DaCola

    Told you it was ignorant plan that doesn’t solve anything except put a bigger tax burden on those that can least afford it. Taxing the poor is all the Republicans know to do, and they got the minority party to go along with it, because gosh darn it, people who work 9 months out of the year deserve to make as much as, well everybody else in SD!

    We could have funded raises for ALL public education employees, not just teachers, from collecting the interest from the education trust fund and raising rural property taxes. Now we are stuck with this. If the Legislature had any vision at all they would repeal the tax increase next session and come up with a better funding solution.

  9. Jerry,

    Burke came up with theirs by not putting so much in the general fund and not giving administrators extra pay as well.
    It’s up to the schools to decide where to allocate the funds.

  10. It would be interesting to know how many school boards raised teacher compensation the minimum required for this year. Did administrators receive a big raise in these schools? Or did the large majority schools exceed that minimum amount to recruit and retain teachers?

  11. I don’t want to see SD tax the poor “South DaCola” either; but a sales tax increase is equal to all persons including tourism and those that come to SD for hunting, fishing, and enjoying the attractions and services in SD. Sales tax funding comes from goods and services sold in SD. Agriculture does its fair share in paying property taxes in my opinion. Everyone thinks that programs should be paid for by land owners or property owners. It should be shared and the burden shouldn’t rest with one entity. I have said often here. Do not TAX FOOD. That would help the poor. Food is a necessity as is heat and clothing. The tax breaks should be given to the poor for life-support food; utilities and healthcare. Once again, Daugaard breaks his promises. As was the case when they said to us “vote for casinos. That will fund education”. Didn’t happen. Used the cash for other pet projects. once again we vote for the tax increase; and it does not support the teachers whereas it was intended. We are slow learners; apparently and our trust is betrayed.

  12. owen reitzel

    ” raising rural property taxes.” Good luck with that South DaCola.

    I love the 9 months out of the year argument. You don’t have a clue.
    You can stop by and watch my wife work during the year. Up every night late. At school late and not just a few times.

  13. South Dacola

    Owen, but she still has her summer off? Correct? I would love to work 50 hours a week for 9 months out of the year to get the summer off, every single holiday, holiday breaks, etc.

    As for property taxes, as a homeowner I pay way more by square foot then a farmer does, and I make $0 from my property.

  14. Mr. E has some good points. Good points indeed.

  15. owen reitzel

    she does. She went to a couple of classes on her own dime. 50 hours a week. My wife wishes she just worked 50 hours a week during school. So her 4 year degree means nothing?

    I can’t argue with you on the property taxes. I just meant good luck increases their taxes. But how do you want to fix it? Income tax?

  16. Mr. Reitzel, I am sure your wife is one of the best teachers out there. And you know my position on the best teachers getting more. I am for it. I bet you jack beans to wool socks that her compatriots who have masters degrees are getting paid more. Even the ones who are not as good of a teacher. I’m just sayin…with teachers it’s all about time and pieces of paper. Not how good you are.

  17. Darin Larson

    South Dacola, whoa, we are going by square foot and who makes more on their property when it comes to comparing residential and farmland? You pay way more per square foot because your property is worth way more per square foot. Seriously, that is an idiotic argument to bring up. If you don’t think so, do you want to trade your improved residential property for unimproved farmland based upon equal square footage?

    You make 0$ from your property because you are living in it. Go ahead and live in a corn field and rent your house out.

    Finally, just because a farmer owns farmland doesn’t mean they are making money on the land. In fact, they could be losing money on it. So, while you are not making any money living in your house, you are also not losing money. There is no guarantee the farmland doesn’t lose money in any given year. And this is shaping up to be a year when farmers lose money on farmland.

  18. Darin Larson

    I appreciate Cory keeping tabs on the status of the teacher pay initiative. However, we already knew that this law was not the be all and end all of school funding and teacher pay in particular. Taking a snippet of the state and asking why it is not measuring up to the governor’s plan for the whole state is an inane question. Let’s see how the whole state is stacking up.

    It is odd for me to be sticking up for the governor who is johnny come lately to teacher pay and school funding. But it wasn’t just him that was holding us back previously and frankly it was a heck of a fight to get this much done. So, I give him credit when credit is due for taking on the right wing dark-agers in his party.

    We have to continue the fight for education funding every year. It needs to be a first priority–not the budget item that gets what funding is left over after the other wants are filled.

    In sum, I don’t want to give any cover to the folks that would just as soon not give teachers raises.

  19. Without education and educators, we are doomed and our children will languish. Education does not come cheap and everyone is entitled to a free and appropriate public education (FAPE) and now children can go to ANY school they choose & open enroll. There are less abled and more abled teachers at all levels — elementary, HS and post-HS. But that goes with EVERY profession. There are better doctors than others; better farmers than others; better business people than others; it goes without saying. How would you rank teachers? What test would you give them? It’s like apples to oranges comparison. A first grade teacher? and high school teacher? a special education teacher which is actually a specialist in that field. do you pay them for their experience or not? do we get rid of tenure? Tell the teachers union all about how you will do that. One thing I do know. If we don’t PAY our teachers a competitive wage; South Dakota won’t keep the brightest and best teachers that graduate college. And, college is expensive. Mastered Degreed people; deserve their wages as do people who obtain their doctorates. In this country; a college degree + holds weight.

  20. South DaCola

    “Finally, just because a farmer owns farmland doesn’t mean they are making money on the land. In fact, they could be losing money on it.”

    That’s a recipe for bankruptcy, and they would be out of business. There are plenty of farmers and non-ag rural landowners that are making tons of money off of their land, and getting federal subsidies on top of that. They can afford a tax increase.

  21. Darin Larson

    South Dacola, welcome to ag Econ 101. Farmers lose money from time to time. We went through a boom cycle. Now it is time for the bust. Why do you think the number of farms and farmers has shrunk precipitiosly over the last 50 years?

    Hopefully a farmer can withstand a losing year or even two. Long term it is bankruptcy or farm sale. No one says a farmer is guaranteed a profit. But we are headed for an ag train wreck right now and to hear someone talk about raising taxes on farmland right now because farmers “can afford it” is ignorant of the facts. The effects will become more prominent throughout the sd economy shortly.

  22. Roger Elgersma

    Hearing that they gave big raises to the administrators was disgusting since the administrators had not been underpaid before as the teachers were. Mitchell required Cabella’s to not pay as much wages before they would let them build in Mitchell because main street was not paying that much. So they never did care about the one doing the work in Mitchell. Burke on the other hand was on that list of the ten most safe little towns in South Dakota, so they already cared about the little guys and so they put more into the teachers salaries than other towns. It all boils down to what is your basic mindset. That is what you do no matter what your talk is.
    Democrats have been for better teacher pay for a long time. But when the media started pointing out the problems on a weekly basis, then the legislature and governor raised teacher pay. This is proof that the Republicans are not in tune with where the people are or what the needs are. But when they are embarrassed into doing something they do. Might be hard on the egos of those who thought they were so smart and so right that they did not have to listen to anyone.