Work Harder, Policymakers: SD Teacher Pay Still Last in Region, Probably 47th in Nation

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.


10 Responses to Work Harder, Policymakers: SD Teacher Pay Still Last in Region, Probably 47th in Nation

  1. David Newquist

    This editorial is a commentary on the incipient review of certification standards. It is written under that cherished belief that teachers are low-level serfs who need to be instructed about their chosen profession and watched closely because they will slough off if not under constant monitoring. Never mind that to be certified in the first place, teachers have to take a hefty curriculum in the theory and practice of their profession, which includes intense study of standards, policies, and procedures. Our local newspaper continues to indulge in the ignorant presumptions that only the truly stupid possess.

    But that imminent review of certification is to be done under the auspices of the state Department of Education under the direction of Melody Schopp, which presided over the Gear Up program. That should give us confidence that our teachers are under strict surveillance.

    Of course, the teachers themselves who do the actual front line work of education should have no part in the review of certification standards. Nor should the professors of education who instruct them in standards, policies, and practices. Leave it to the architects of that massive Gear Up rip off which served students and teachers so well.

  2. Many school districts increased the length of the teacher contract before they would agree to the state-mandated raises. So for several districts the “more work” aspect was already in place.

    (I am unsure whether Aberdeen increased their number of days.)

  3. Timoteo,
    I was told my local district was trying to add more days to the teachers’ contracts with these raises. Also, I heard the teachers were told they would be laughed at if they didn’t agree to the extra days with this big raise. I never did hear the final outcome.

  4. I believe I said earlier this year that raising teacher pay based on old numbers would result at best moving up five spots. It wouldn’t have been that hard to predict the growth of wages in the area by figuring out the average increase in wages over the last ten years and using that number. Still though 47th is a step in the right direction.

  5. Gail L. Swenson

    Sounds like someone from your hometown paper needs to spend a day substitute teaching. That wouldn’t be a bad idea for all of our area legislators as well! Walk a mile, so to speak…

  6. Donald Pay

    I don’t think expecting more of teachers is a bad thing, as long as we expect more out of the political leaders. Everyone can do better.

    Let’s start, though, with the political class, which has been particularly corrupt in South Dakota, and which needs reform much more than teaching. There’s a lot of whining from your state’s “leaders” right now about IM 22, and it really hasn’t been implemented. The “leaders” are attempting to pit money for teachers and student programs against honest campaign finance improvements and other modest efforts at reform. Really? When have the wealthy special interests, who just lost a tiny bit of their ability to hijack the political agenda away from education of children, ever wanted to pay more for schools? You won’t see the political class in South Dakota rush toward a small income tax on the hyper-inflated incomes of their minders to improve education. They won’t add money for schools if they get to continue their ongoing corruption. It will continue to go to worthless agencies like GOED, bad ideas like nuclear waste, scams like EB-5 and corruption like, well, much of what they do. South Dakota voters have asked the political class for much better behavior and less corruption. Now they need to step up and show they can improve.

  7. Working harder gets you more money. It is easy. Whining does not get you more money. At least for most people it does not. Good teachers deserve more money, the rest need to work harder.

  8. For the umpteenth time, Grudz, that’s not how it works. South Dakota teachers worked harder for decades, and the Legislature didn’t give them more money. South Dakota teachers don’t have to work harder to get more money; now, even with the Blue Ribbon tax increases, they can simply move to any adjoining state and get more money for the same amount of work. Every adjoining state believes that every teacher deserves more money, independent of the question of their teacher evaluation scores.

  9. mike from iowa

    I can do anything better than anyone else, as long as I don’t have to prove it.

  10. That is how it works, Mr. H. People who work harder get more money and get farther in life. If you sit around begging for people to just give you things you live on welfare.