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Grand Bargain: Eclipse Continuing Contract for One Year, Raise SD Teacher Pay to $60,000

Governor Dennis Daugaard’s choice of only two teachers for his 26-member Blue Ribbon Task Force on Teachers and Students suggests that he’s still mad at us teachers for killing his only big education reform proposal, 2012’s House Bill 1234. Having licked his wound for three years, he is perhaps ready to make war on teachers again with the proposals he will extract from his rigged task force.

One part of the 1234 agenda I would expect the Governor to resurrect is his push to end “continuing contract,” mistakenly called “tenure”. Continuing contract is the labor protection enjoyed by teachers who have worked in a school district for more than three consecutive years. Schools can fire any teacher for just cause at any time. However, if a school chooses not to renew a teacher’s contract for the coming school year, a teacher who has served the district for more than three years (i.e., has previously received the board’s stamp of approval via four formal contracts) is entitled to a written explanation of that decision, a hearing before the school board (see SDCL 13-43-6.2).

Governor Daugaard and some Republican legislators have targeted continuing contract because of their mistaken belief that South Dakota’s scanty labor protections make it too hard to fire bad teachers. Getting rid of continuing contract would actually be bad for teachers and schools.

Governor Daugaard may hate continuing contract as much as the rest of us hate seeing a generation of the lowest teacher pay in the nation culminating in a teacher shortage.

So let’s compromise. Blue Ribboneers, here’s the sole passable policy proposal you may need to “meaningfully fund” our K-12 schools:

We give up continuing contract for one year, 2020. That spring, school boards may clear the decks and open every certified teaching position for new applicants. No teacher, first-year, fourth-year, or fortieth-year, may take non-renewal to a grievance hearing. Schools may allow the non-renewed teachers to re-apply for their positions, in competition with all outside applicants, and prioritize those veteran re-applicants as they wish. In 2021, we restore fourth-year-and-beyond continuing contract protections for all teachers, with all years of service prior to and including the 2020 and 2021 school years counting toward continuing contract protection as if the 2020 suspension had never happened.

Essentially, we pass, not a sunset clause, but an “eclipse clause,” declaring SDCL 13-43-6.2 and the relevant clauses of SDCL 13-43-6.1 and SDCL 13-43-6.3 null and void from March 1, 2020 to September 15, 2020.

The 2020 eclipse of continuing contract happens only on three conditions:

  1. By March 1, 2020, the South Dakota Legislature passes a per-student allocation of at least $7,000 (or whatever amount is necessary to make possible condition #3);
  2. Through fiscal years 2017—2020, the Legislature shall adjust the Cutler-Gabriel formula to ensure that state funds provide the balance of funding prescribed by the per-student allocation above the per-student allocation that would have accrued by Fiscal Year 2021 based on 2% annual increases.
  3. The average teacher K-12 teacher salary in South Dakota, as reported by all public school districts in South Dakota by October 1, 2019 in their FY2020 contracts, is at least $60,000.

Add $1,434 per student in state aid to K-12 education, and South Dakota will still trail neighboring states in how much the state spends on K-12 students. [Source: South Dakota Budget and Policy Project,
Add $1,434 per student in state aid to K-12 education, and South Dakota will still trail neighboring states in how much the state spends on K-12 students. [Source: South Dakota Budget and Policy Project, “Per-Student K-12 Funding in South Dakota,” 2013.06.18.
Math notes:

  1. The average South Dakota K-12 teacher salary last year was $40,023.
  2. Raising that average to $60,000 requires giving every South Dakota teacher $19,977.
  3. South Dakota has 9,208 K-12 teachers.
  4. Multiply: raising our average teacher pay to $60,000 would require $183,948,216.
  5. South Dakota has 128,294 K-12 students.
  6. Divide: reaching $60,000 per teacher would cost $1,434 per student.
  7. This year’s per-student allocation is $4,876.76.
  8. Add: making South Dakota’s teacher salary $60,000 right now would require a per-student allocation of $6,310.56.
  9. Inflation: increasing that per-student allocation 2% each year, as we did this year, would produce an FY 2021 per-student allocation of $6,697.37.

Maybe I’m giving away the farm by sacrificing an essential labor protection for even one year just to satisfy the mistaken Scott-Walker-esque (that’s redundant) thinking of Governor Daugaard and the SDGOP. But   imagine for a moment what a $60K teacher salary would do for South Dakota’s teacher labor market. If I’m right (heck, if capitalism is right), low pay is keeping South Dakota schools from attracting top talent. If the Governor and his party are right, continuing contract is keeping administrators and school boards from getting rid of bad teachers and hiring better teachers. If either or both of us are right, this plan is a gold rush for teachers and school boards.

So who’s willing to trade horses and make sausage?


  1. The King 2015-06-14 09:36

    Interesting proposal.

    Over the past 25 years or so west river schools have consolidated to save costs, and simply to remain viable. East river schools, despite their often much closer proximity, have not consolidated to nearly the same degree. One can argue about the value of consolidation but generally with each school district comes a superintendent and his/her support staff. Administrative efficiencies and economy of scale can be a positive outcome from consolidation—–those funds can be re-directed back into teacher salaries. Can you get to the $60K/salary by consolidation alone? No, but consolidation needs to be part of the mix IMHO.

    See my post about taking the $1.8M going to promote gambling advertising and putting that toward teacher pay. Not huge but every little bit helps.

    Another pot of funds that needs to be examined is that of the SDHSAA. Look at the revenues in the bank from that group. They are six figures, those funds should be returned to the schools and not held by SDHSAA. Sure, give them a rainy day fund, but it crazy that SDHSAA is allowed to roll over millions of dollars yearly and then has the audacity of starting a private foundation while teachers pay is last in the nation.

    People here have poo-poo’d my suggestion that ND and MT’s GDP is greater than SD’s because of oil revenues from the Baaken, even suggesting the Baaken production has permanently peaked. Wrong, it is in a lull because of OPEC squeezing the market. The Baaken will return and activity will move south into SD. It would be wise to get ahead of that curve and direct a significant portion of new oil revenue tax to teacher pay increases.

    There are no silver bullets, but many copper ones that should be considered.

  2. Sam@ 2015-06-14 09:37

    Sorry Cory. Education has become a money pit. We need to get back to basics. There is a good reason the technical jobs are going over seas. While our kids worry about the Friday night Football game many students around the world are excited about who is winning the next math or spelling contest.

    American eduction needs a major over haul

  3. Nathan 2015-06-14 10:05

    How do you propose that we get kids excited about math and spelling Sam? What kind of changes would you like to see in an overhaul? I’m not disagreeing with you, just curious what ideas you think might work.

    Cory, where does 60k average place us? That would be on the high end of average wouldn’t it? Quick google searches are giving me multiple results on this… What would that mean for a teachers starting wage?

  4. Nick Nemec 2015-06-14 10:18

    King, You’re right when you say the answer is many copper bullets rather than a single silver one. Every little bit helps.
    I don’t hold out much hope for Baaken production extending into SD for the simple reason that I’ve not seen any maps that indicate the oil bearing shale formation extends into SD. And even if it does it will be the extreme fringe of the formation and not the giant sweet spots that exist in ND. But I agree, dedicating future increases in oil extraction tax to education would be prudent, so would examining our oil extraction tax structure to insure we aren’t giving away the store with lowball, industry favoring, tax rates. The Baaken isn’t one of the bullets, it might be a rock for the slingshot.

  5. Donald Pay 2015-06-14 10:28

    Continuing contract isn’t the problem, so I wouldn’t even consider it, but I understand the idea of dealing with the delusional. I had a client who thought he won the Canadian lottery, and that he was soon to receive a check. I think these Republicans are kind of like my client. They expect some magical result to materialize from a faulty thought process.

    By the way, Wisconsin, thanks to Walker’s policies, is now experiencing teacher shortages. We used to be a destination for teachers seeking better employment. That’s not the case anymore. Teachers leaving for surrounding states, early retirements (getting out before Walker drops another bomb on teachers), and lackluster recruitment of new teachers under the hostile Walker regime are causing lots of problems for school districts, particularly those close to the Minnesota and Illinois borders.

  6. David Newquist 2015-06-14 10:54

    Education in America has always had to face the problems that come with changing times. That is because in America, we have tried to give every person the opportunity to go wherever they wanted in terms of education. We did not channel them into educational tracks based upon what someone thought their vocational potential was and limit their ability to aspire to higher things. Most of the western world after World War II modeled itself on our system of education. But now we are adopting the notion of making education an indoctrination system for corporate business, not a personal resource of opportunity for every citizen.

    We have and still do supply people educated in math and science who can compete with and even lead the rest of the world. Education did not fail the nation in that regard. The nation failed education. When Ronald Reagan declared that we would no longer be an economy based upon production but would become a service economy, he triggered the policies that allowed corporations to abandon the country and find the cheapest labor possible to put American workers out of productive jobs. That included people in the technical fields. As foreign countries educated scientists, engineers, and mathematicians in our country and then used them to establish educational programs in their own lands, they produced a force of technical workers who would work cheap. Americans who were educated in the STEM fields found that the U.S. offered them no jobs. An example is the recent layoff of technical workers by Disney, which asked the people being laid off to train lower-paid workers being imported from foreign lands. []

    Education is not the problem in America that the people who want our nation to revert to corporate feudalism and continue the conversion of middle class citizens to the status of serfs. Global corporations have betrayed the education system. And the middle class continues to be pushed into poverty.

  7. owen 2015-06-14 11:25

    I’m with Donald on this Cory on the continuing contract . That one year could play havoc with peoples lives. An example: A good teacher might have a personality conflict with a few school board members and end up getting fired for no good reason. If you could let people go who are truly poor teachers then I wouldn’t have a problem with the idea. However, as you know Cory, it’s almost impossible to know if a teacher is bad. If a teacher is bad they’d already be out of the profession.

    I hope you read what David wrote Sam. He’s exactly right. Jobs are going overseas because greedy corporations want to save money-not because of the education system. I know because I’ve lived it.

    With only 2 educators on the panel it shows that the Governor holds a grudge and isn’t really serious about solving education problems. You’re spot on there Cory.

  8. caheidelberger Post author | 2015-06-14 11:56

    King: SDHSAA? Pfft. Six figures is nothing. The SDHSAA gets a single-digit percentage of its money from the schools, which themselves govern the SDHSAA. The SDHSAA nearly funds all of its operations off revenue from state events and other sources. Raiding/punishing SDHSAA will not create meaningful new funding for K-12 education; it would only degrade the opportunities students have to compete in District, Regional, and State events, athletic, artistic, and academic.

  9. caheidelberger Post author | 2015-06-14 11:58

    Back to basics, Sam? Common Core is all about basics. English and math test prep take center stage at the expense of social studies, arts, business, shop, foreign language, and other electives that enrich students’ learning. “Back to basics” is an outdated and inaccurate trope that gets us nowhere near meaningful funding.

  10. caheidelberger Post author | 2015-06-14 12:07

    Donald: “dealing with the delusional”, or dealing with the devil?

    Owen, I agree with Donald that continuing contract is not really a problem. But as you and Donald note, we’re dealing with an opposition with a strong mindset. If we want to sell this plan, we will have to give them something (and notice, I’m doubling our ante from the $10K with no strings that I’ve asked for in my moonshot plan to $20K with this one big string). Is a $20K raise, leaping to possibly 13th in the nation for teacher pay, worth this deal?

    I agree that for one year, we’re going to be subjecting teachers’ lives to some possible upset. That’s why we pass the plan in 2016 and put the eclipse in effect four years out, for just one year. Boards have to wait four years to screw their small-town black sheep over. Black sheep anticipating a screwing have four years to work on their escape plan.

    Note that this plan works against my own self-interest. I know I’m not the best teacher in the world—I don’t win every job interview I do. Raise teacher pay 50%, attract a bigger, better talent pool, and I face even more competition to get and keep teaching jobs. I’ll sacrifice my own job security to achieve this policy end. Governor, Legislature, are you?

  11. larry kurtz 2015-06-14 12:11

    A google search for expenditures for each South Dakota county was totally unsatisfying but someone smarter than I should be able to ascertain how much the bureaucracy of 66 counties costs.


  12. caheidelberger Post author | 2015-06-14 12:12

    I’m intrigued by Nick’s and King’s exchange on Bakken oil. The geology isn’t with us—we aren’t going to strike oil here. But if we do benefit from industries moving here to supply the oilers to our north (hey, how about a toll booths at Lemmon and Buffalo?), we may be able to cash in and divert those funds to education. But beware petrodollars: they don’t last!

  13. grudznick 2015-06-14 12:15

    I think the BluRT-F would say “bah, keep your tenure and get no more money unless you sort yourselves out”

  14. caheidelberger Post author | 2015-06-14 12:15

    On consolidation: remember, we consolidated schools big time in the 1960s. Our teacher pay ranking declined in the 1970s and anchored itself to rock bottom in 1985. So much for that plan for cost savings.

  15. Shirley Harrington-Moore 2015-06-14 12:38

    Next he will decide that teachers don’t have to be certified and that high school drop outs can teach. Then pay the those ‘teachers’ minimum wage. He’s going down Scott Walker’s path.

  16. larry kurtz 2015-06-14 12:39

    Anyone know how much just the salaries of 66 counties’ commissions cost the state budget?

  17. larry kurtz 2015-06-14 12:41

    Rewrite: anyone know the total of salaries of just the county commissioners?

  18. Jackilope 2015-06-14 13:06

    Cory, no. Continuing contract has never been a problem and to even blink and pretend for one year that it is will definitely do more harm than any good. I guarantee you that offer would be abused. The public has to be educated that ineffective teachers can and are dismissed if the administrator is doing their job. No compromise.

    I have a suggestion. If businesses are crying for decent and trained professionals, why not steal a teacher? SD teachers think on their feet, have endured a great deal of stress, show up — even under abusive situations (like attacks on their professional abilities by ALEC written legislation pushed by SD Governor), are organized, and certainly dedicated. School districts are offering incentives for teachers that have climbed the salary schedule and have earned their Master Degrees to leave. Why not have a job fair out there for businesses to entice the dedicated teacher to take the leap and leave? That solves that pesky continuing contract or tenure dilemma. Voila, a nice revolving door and cheap out of college labor.

  19. Donald Pay 2015-06-14 17:31

    Here’s the compromise that makes the most sense to me: (1) Begin a five year plan to fund education adequately at the state level. Adequate funding at the state level would be defined in a step-wise fashion such that at the end of the five year period the state effort would have to at least match the average per student allocation provided by surrounding states. (2) Any additional funding of education (ie., the source of the money) would have to be shown to be progressive (ie., the more a person makes, the more he or she pays to fund education) and not result in further income inequality in the state. (3) The source of funding shall be specifically dedicated to education with an initial priority of funding a boast in teacher salaries and in funding programs for students. (4) The South Dakota Department of Education should be abolished, and the duties transferred to an elected State Board of Education. (5) The State Board of Education shall consider in five years (after the state has reached adequate funding) whether consolidation of districts would save money and/or hurt education and/or hurt local economies, and shall make a recommendation for consolidation of districts that would be both economically efficient and educationally sound (6) That consolidation plan would be voted on by the South Dakota electorate.

  20. caheidelberger Post author | 2015-06-15 07:25

    Donald, what other duties would the elected State Board of Education take on? How would we keep it from turning into the DOE bureaucracy that you want to eliminate?

    Jackilope, if there is no compromise, will there be a solution?

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