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Ellendale Snags Veteran Yankton Teaching Couple with $25K Raise

While the Blue Ribbon Task Force on Teachers and Students gears up to reinvent the wheel, Ellendale (ND) superintendent Jeff Fastnacht reminds us of the main cause of South Dakota’s teacher shortage. The Wessington Springs graduate tells us he’s able to raid out labor pool with much bigger paychecks:

…we ran into a husband and wife team from down by Yankton. They were NSU grads that had been teaching 20-plus years each. They had masters’ degrees, did many duties and were highly regarded by their present school. With that experience and education, they were presently being paid less than Ellendale’s base salary. That is shameful! We ended up getting both to agree to move north and they probably made over $25,000 in additional salary.

Wouldn’t you move for that? South Dakota, you lost. Your schools are losing their very best every day, when will you notice? [Jeff Fastnacht, “South Dakota Losing Because of Teacher Pay,” Aberdeen American News, 2015.04.04]

Those talented professionals gave up balmy Yankton for the Ellendale tundra, because they could increase their income by 15%–20%.

BluRT-FTS, I have no idea what plans and policies you are going to propose. But can we at least start from one agreed principle, that having the lowest pay in the nation is bad for South Dakota’s teaching corps? Can we aim toward one agreed goal, to raise our teacher pay to be competitive with neighboring states?


  1. Frank James 2015-04-04

    South Dakota state government is willing to go to the mat to complete with our neighbors for CAFOs. Seems we should be competing for teachers instead.

  2. Kurt Evans 2015-04-04

    Jeff Fastnacht wrote:
    >”In my small rural school of Gann Valley Elementary to Wessington Springs High School, my teachers cared for me and worked hard to get this unwilling student to learn.”

    We really did have some great teachers in Springs during the 1980s, and it really is a tribute to them that a self-described “unwilling student” like Jeff went on to become a public school superintendent.

    >”They were respected by members of the community, were given autonomy and received a fair wage.”

    The current crop of Springs teachers isn’t half bad either, and considering that we’re a town of about 800 people located almost an hour from even a mid-sized community, I’m guessing respect and autonomy are a big part of what keeps them here.

  3. Deb Geelsdottir 2015-04-04

    Kurt, that respect and autonomy is a big part of what keeps teachers in those small towns.

    I taught at Deubrook High School 1976-80. The people of the school district, which included White and Toronto, treated me very well. It was a good place to teach.

    25 years later I lived in Newell and served the local Lutheran church as well as Vale and northeast to Zeona, which is straight north of Mud Butte. The people in those communities treat professionals, such as teachers and preachers, with respect, dignity and appreciation. That goes a long way, though not far enough to pay the bills without a second job. Still, I will never forget the kindness and courtesy of those families. I’m grateful to have had the opportunity to serve them.

  4. Deb Geelsdottir 2015-04-04

    I need to make an addition to my previous comment.

    Teachers and preachers leave those wonderful places because the stress of trying to manage financially gets to be too much. Parents don’t get to see much of their children because they’re always working. I guarantee that if pay was decent, the teacher shortage would mostly melt away. Unless . . .

    If SD Republicans keep trying to out discriminate Indiana, Arkansas, etc, they’re going to have to pay a really big pile of money to get teachers come here, or keep locals.

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