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.