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Sioux Falls School Board Candidates Agree Teacher Pay Too Low

Even in Sioux Falls, one of the best-paying school districts in South Dakota, the three school board candidates say they want to pay their teachers more.

Says challenger Randy Dobberpuhl:

Dobberpuhl describes the matter as “a situation that we got to look at.”

South Dakota is last in the nation in average teacher salary, and the problem trickles down to the Sioux Falls district, even though local schools can pay more than some.

Fixing that might be prodding the Legislature, Dobberpuhl said. He’s talked with the district’s teachers union about starting a lobbying group, and said he would be a vocal advocate for higher pay if elected.

“I don’t want to lose ground,” Dobberpuhl said. “How do we get these teachers caught up?” [Patrick Anderson, “School Board Candidate Profile: Randy Dobberpuhl,” that Sioux Falls paper, 2015.04.09]

Says incumbent Kate Parker:

Parker wants better wages for Sioux Falls teachers, but the way South Dakota pays for K-12 limits the board’s options, she said.

“We need to find out a way to increase teacher salaries,” Parker said. “We can only do so much with what we’re given.”

If elected, Parker said she would continue to hammer home the need for putting more funding toward teacher salaries [Patrick Anderson, “School Board Candidate Profile: Kate Parker,” that Sioux Falls paper, 2015.04.09].

Says incumbent Todd Thoelke:

Something needs to happen, but not more finger-pointing, Thoelke said.

Thoelke represents Sioux Falls on the Associated School Boards of South Dakota. He said he’s already visited Pierre and talked with lawmakers about school funding and the state’s rock-bottom teacher salaries. And he thinks the best way to fix the state’s teacher-pay problem and keep teachers from leaving is with more dialog and less blame, Thoelke said.

“We got some great legislators, let’s work with them.” Thoelke said. “There’s a new concept” [Patrick Anderson, “School Board Candidate Profile: Todd Thoelke,” that Sioux Falls paper, 2015.04.09].

Thoelke makes a little too nice with a Legislature that’s been AWOL on teacher pay for at least two generations. Great legislators would lead the conversation and solve the problem. Great legislators would not let blame or criticism stand in the way of their fixing the teacher shortage that threatens this state’s economic viability. On teacher pay, I’m having trouble spying the “great” legislators Thoelke says are out there.


  1. Owen 2015-04-10 07:15

    I believe the new superintendent in Sioux Falls said the same thing in an interview.

  2. mike from iowa 2015-04-10 07:22

    Might I suggest to Ms Parker you do not need to be elected to hammer on the obvious fact of low teacher pay. You should be on this blog and others every damn day hammering that point home. Master Cory points out deficiencies every day,even when he wasn’t a school board candidate. Come join the fun. I’m sure there will be some interesting questions posed to you as well. :)

  3. Jeff Barth 2015-04-10 11:22

    Teachers wait for school Boards and Administrators to fight for their raise. If they want a raise they need to vote and vote with unanimity for legislators who will support that idea.

    I don’t have the numbers but along with apathy many teachers vote for Republicans who don’t believe in government and actively work to make sure government fails. Hey! Teaching in a public school is a government job.

    One can sympathize with administrators who contend with insufficient resources as they deal with hiring difficulties. But it is hard to care about teachers who keep silent hoping someone else will gift them the money needed.


  4. scott 2015-04-10 11:55

    Thank you Mr. Thoelke! It isn’t money people want, it’s open dialogue and less blame! I’ll be sure to put that on my mortgage check next month.

  5. owen 2015-04-10 12:15

    You make good points Jeff. I’ve seen teachers who I’m sure vote against their own best interests.
    I’ve seen teachers that don’t belong to SDEA (even though they reap the benefits from SDEA-few that they are) and who don’t’ seem to care.

    But I also believe that teachers have been beaten down and if they talk about salaries they get ridiculed because they want to improve wages. They are told money is all they think about.
    They are told they only work 9 months a year (which isn’t true).

    they have to fight a lot of ignorant people out there.

  6. Greg 2015-04-10 17:05

    It’s school board election season. Time to talk about teacher salaries being too low. Everyone likes to talk about our legislators fixing this problem. We keep waiting for more funding which will never happen. The truth is that the only solution would be opt out. Your own local revenue would stay in your district to pay your own teachers. If school boards wait for Pierre to fix the problem it will only get to be a bigger problem. Our state legislature will not fix the problem before it is too late.

  7. caheidelberger Post author | 2015-04-11 06:39

    Again, defeatism. Opt outs are not the only way to raise teacher pay—that’s Governor Daugaard and lazy legislators talking. We can raise teacher pay by bringing back the state’s willingness to bear its fair share of K-12 costs. Elect new legislators, elect a Democratic governor, get the job done.

  8. Greg 2015-04-11 07:48

    Cory, I would agree with you if we would see some progress in Pierre. There was talk of a sales tax for more revenue that didn’t seem to have much opposition and it was not even considered. I am not a big fan of opt outs but it seems like it is the only short term solution. How long can we wait?

  9. caheidelberger Post author | 2015-04-11 07:51

    I agree with Jeff that teachers can’t wait for someone else to save them. I know when we have papers to grade and Common Core checklists to submit with every lesson plan, it’s very tempting to just grind through our work and keep our heads down, but we can and must be the captains of our own destiny by taking on political action.

  10. caheidelberger Post author | 2015-04-11 07:53

    Greg, I would agree that, in the immediate term, school districts’ only option is an opt-out. But we should never think just short-term. We should pair our discussion of opt outs with, “And we’re having to do this because our legislators and our governor are neglecting education. We’ll pass this opt out now, but we need to come back in 2016 and 2018 and clean house in Pierre.”

  11. Gracie 2015-04-12 14:09

    Pls educate me….how are districts allocating the funds that they do receive from the state? Are districts inproportionately distributing to other programs and salaries that could be going to the teachers? Are districts running a barebones budget for other activities and supplies and sports and curriculum and etc etc vs teacher pay? Are other salaries in the district above while teachers are below? I am just curious and have not heard any analysis of where the money is actually going, I have mostly heard that there is not enough.

  12. caheidelberger Post author | 2015-04-13 06:25

    Gracie, my understanding is that the Janklow property-tax relief program of 1995 has driven two decades of budget and program reductions. My understanding is that in every district, salaries take up the majority of the budget. In most districts, no substantial budget shortfall cannot be addressed without affecting teacher salaries. There just isn’t much wiggle room in K-12 budgets.

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