My local paper’s editorial board looks at the higher salaries South Dakota’s K-12 teachers are getting from the half-penny sales tax hike enacted last June (my updated calculation: an 11.6% increase to $46,613.24, only 72% of the raise necessary to reach the statutory target of $48,500) and wrongly concludes that teachers need to earn that money by doing more work:
But with the new money — your money and my money — should come with more expectations and changes for the better.
Take your game to the next level, teachers.
Now is a good time to look at standards, policies and procedures for all things related to teaching in our state [editorial, “With More Money Comes [sic] More Expectations for Teachers,”Aberdeen American News, 2016.11.23].
Bonk—wrong answer, AAN! If you cheat at cards, you don’t get to demand that the other players increase their ante. If you cheat on your spouse, you don’t get to demand that your spouse be more faithful.
South Dakota cheated teachers for thirty years with the lowest pay in the nation. According to my calculations, $46,613 puts us at 47th, ahead of only Mississippi, Oklahoma, Idaho, and Arizona. $46,613 leaves us $4,475 behind North Dakota, $7,713 below the median for adjoining states, and more than $10,000 behind regional teacher pay leaders Wyoming and Minnesota.
AAN’s editors recognize that this year’s pay raise responds to a generation of teachers doing more than their pay warranted:
It was much needed and well-deserved. Many South Dakota teachers had been doing more with less for years [AAN editorial, 2016.11.23].
AAN’s editors thus err in suggesting that this pay raise is a payment for additional effort. This 11.6% statewide raise is back pay for decades of uncompensated work. This raise is a down payment on the debt we owe for cheating our teachers. This raise is only a first step toward erasing the ongoing sacrifice teachers make to stay in South Dakota and teach for below-average wages.
South Dakota teachers don’t need to work harder. South Dakota policymakers do, to offer truly competitive wages that compensate teachers for the work they are already doing.