The Aberdeen School Board tonight takes up (and, by the time I finish typing this, may well have approved) the negotiated agreement with its teachers for the 2016–2017 school year. Aberdeen gave its teachers a two-year contract last year, but the Blue Ribbon teacher pay raises approved by the Legislature discombobulated that plan and brought the board and the teachers back to the table to fairly divide up the new sales tax money the state will be sending us come July 1 (remember, the extra half-penny sales tax kicks in on June 1, so the state can write those first extra checks in time for the start of the new school fiscal year).
The new contract will give every certified public school teacher in Aberdeen a 3% raise, plus $4,500 raise.
Based on my estimates, that agreement should raise the average teacher salary in the Aberdeen Central School District from $42,825 to $48,609, 0.2% above the state’s target of $48,500.
Turning to benefits, Aberdeen is dropping its $1,000-deductible health plan. It is keeping two cheaper plans, one with a $2,000 deductible, the other with a $3,000 deductible and a health savings account. Employees will pay $240 to $264 more over the year for their health plans; those taking the HSA plan will see district contributions to those accounts increase $240 for individual plans and $480 for family plans.
Hourly employees receive the same health coverage from Aberdeen’s self-insurance. Hourly employees will receive the 2.5% cost-of-living increase negotiated last year. The lowest hourly wage in the district will be $9.46 for an entry-level food service worker. The highest hourly wage will be $37.24 for the network administrator who reaches the new Step 15 on the schedule.
Administrators will receive $4,500 raises. Administrative base salaries will range from $56,000 for the food service director, $74,000 for our elementary principals and the A-TEC director, $80,000 for our two middle school principals, and $100,000 for our high school principal.
Last year, the board set Superintendent Becky Guffin’s salary for this year at $139,377 and for the coming school year at $143,027. This year’s agreement amends Dr. Guffin’s 2016–2017 school year pay to $143,877. Dr. Guffin served on the Blue Ribbon K-12 panel that produced the data and proposal necessary to drive over $60 million to the schools for teacher pay; Dr. Guffin is receiving only $850 in new money.
Rep. Greenfield spent very little time addressing specific funding alternatives. Instead, she said HB 1182 has been a very “disturbing” issue for her. She said she’s received lots of e-mails saying “Shame on you” and “I’m so disappointed,” plying the blame-the-victims line that I’ve been hearing from other HB 1182 opponents who apparently don’t like being criticized for their bad votes.
Rep. Greenfield outlined her main reasons for opposing HB 1182. She said HB 1182 is a tax bill, with no mention of teachers. She repeated the hoary old (false) complaint that we passed video lottery on the promise that the revenue would go to K-12 education and then were cheated. She said the 2012 initiative vote against the penny sales tax for education and health care obliges her to respect “the will of the people” and not vote for a half-penny sales tax dedicated to teacher pay.
Rep. Greenfield then complained that the Governor appointed mostly big-city people to his Blue Ribbon K-12 panel. I count eleven out of 26 small-towners—I’m counting Madison as small, and Vicki Harmdierks works in Mitchell but lives in Wessington Springs. Without breaking down how many of those “big-city” Blue Ribboneers are small-town kids at heart (Armour’s Venhuizen jumps to mind, but I’m sure Lana sees Tony as a city clicker), 15 out of 26 members being “urban” (curious: how many of you South Dakotans feel urban?) is about 58%. The eight biggest counties in South Dakota constitute 58% of our population. eleven small-towners on a statewide committee isn’t that bad a split.
But hey, Rep. Greenfield isn’t going for specifics. She’s not explaining exactly why the ideas Supt. Guffin and teacher Steve O’Brien and thirteen other city-clickers reached consensus on with their eleven small-town counterparts are flawed; she’s just grasping for some narrative to justify her partisan obstinance.
Rep. Greenfield then cribbed Senate Jeff Monroe’s ploy and said the Blue Ribboneers found that the low pay was not as big a problem for teachers as being overworked and not having enough prep time. Rep. Greenfield is referring to the Ingersoll data that the Blue Ribbon K-12 panel heard last summer:
Rep. Greenfield reversed the order: lack of prep time was #1 and too heavy teaching load was #2. Low pay tied with too large class size for #3. Rep. Greenfield ignored the Blue Ribbon Panel’s recognition that Ingersoll’s survey was not South Dakota-specific: as the Blue Ribbon report says on page 13, “The survey data is nationwide, and the task force acknowledged that low salaries are probably a more significant factor in South Dakota. Unfortunately, no similar data exists that is specific to South Dakota.”
And even if we let Ingersoll’s non-South Dakota data dictate our problem-solving priorities, Rep. Greenfield offered no plan for helping teachers with those first two problems, probably because increasing prep time and reducing class sizes would require even more money to hire more teachers. Rep. Greenfield just keeps insisting that the third problem—the problem which the Legislature can most directly address—isn’t worth Legislative action.
Then, seemingly afraid that Blue Ribboneers like Dr. Guffin will take her opposition personally, Rep. Greenfield claims that the pending legislation isn’t the Blue Ribbon plan at all but something the Governor’s office composed either before, during, or after the Blue Ribbon panel met. Rep. Greenfield does not substantiate this claim. The Governor’s initial endorsement of action on teacher pay on January 12, 2016, and the three bills introduced on February 2, 2016, mostly copy, with a few added details, the proposals laid out in the Blue Ribbon panel’s final report issued on November 11, 2015. No member of the Blue Ribbon panel, including vocal HB 1182 opponent Rep. Steve Westra (R-13/Soux Falls), has come forth to say their exercise was a complete charade and that the Governor’s people had already drafted the bills last spring.
Rep. Greenfield is trying portray her opposition to raising teacher pay as a brave stand against a dictatorial Governor and critical fellow legislators. Rep. Greenfield alleges “brutal” arm-twisting in Pierre to pass this bill. She alleges “people were hauled in behind closed doors and they were scolded and they were made promises in order to keep this bill moving forward.” She accused Rep. Roger Solum (R-5/Watertown) of voting for Rep. Lee Schoenbeck’s (R-5/Watertown) amendment on sending some of the new sales tax money to the vo-tech schools to raise his own pay. She moaned about getting mass e-mails saying, “How dare you!” and Rep. Schoenbeck going hard after her anti-teacher vote on the radio and on Facebook and that Sioux Falls paper putting opponents’ faces in the paper.
Oh my gosh—a legislator thinks publicity is a bad thing?
Rep. Greenfield did endorse the argument the Democratic caucus has offered that the Governor’s Blue Ribbon plan is bad for small schools because it pressures them to cut 400 teachers (maybe 631 teachers) or consolidate. However, Rep. Greenfield ignores the fact that the pressure for those cuts lies in the funding formula in Senate Bill 131, not in the funding mechanism of House Bill 1182. She could vote for House Bill 1182 to raise the money for schools, then amend SB 131 when it comes to the House to better accommodate the needs of the small schools she claims to be defending. Or she could come out and endorse the Democratic plan, Senate Bill 151, which has funding mechanism and formula all in one neat bill.
Rep. Greenfield said any new money must be earmarked for teachers. On Thursday, Rep. Schoenbeck offered Amendment 1182of, which dedicates 64% of the proceeds of the sales tax increase to increasing teacher salaries. That sounds like an earmark to me. However, Rep. Greenfield voted against that earmark amendment, and she voted against HB 1182 in full with that earmark amendment. Rep. Greenfield either forgot about that amendment or lied to us at yesterday’s crackerbarrel.
Rep. Greenfield ended with a firm declaration that she will stand her ground and not be part of “this blatant corruption.” Wow—EB-5, GEAR UP, the flag theft, and Rep. Greenfield calls raising taxes to raise teacher pay “blatant corruption”? Now Rep. Greenfield is just singing in the shower, putting some kind of Mr. Smith Goes to Pierre mask on her cowardly inability to overcome her ideology and solve South Dakota’s #1 policy problem, our destructively low teacher pay.
Governor Dennis Daugaard joined numerous luminaries today at 1 p.m. on the Aberdeen Central High School campus to celebrate the opening of the A-TEC Academy. Below are some photos of the ribbon-cutting and the new career and technical education building.