Press "Enter" to skip to content

Schoenbeck Recognizes Teacher Shortage, Schoenbeck Plan Does Not

Rep. Lee Schoenbeck, R-5/Watertown
Man with a plan: Rep. Lee Schoenbeck, R-5/Watertown

Rep. Lee Schoenbeck (R-5/Watertown) isn’t heeding the Governor’s admonition to shush until the Governor’s Blue Ribbon K-12 panel issues its policy proposals. Rep. Schoenbeck offers his own eight-page epistle on why and how we should increase funding for our K-12 schools. The Watertown Republican recognizes South Dakota’s fundamental K-12 problem—not enough teachers, not enough money—but he pulls the money we need from the wrong pot and throws that money at the wrong policies.

First, let’s give Rep. Schoenbeck credit for laying out a relatively thoughtful and detailed policy paper. He aspires to literature, opening with a fine quote about the need to educate the youth in democracy “someday to be the rulers of the greatest country on earth,” and closing with a Spartan call to the Blue Ribboneers to come up with a workable policy or die trying.  He seats his discussion in what he portrays as a proud South Dakota history of putting education first, noting that we located our first public university during our first territorial legislative session, while the Pilgrims dinked around shooting turkeys for 19 years before founding Harvard. Schoenbeck observes that just two decades after statehood, South Dakota had 4,518 schoolhouses, which I’d wager is well over four times as many instructional centers as we have today. (Hmm… if a fledging state could afford so many school buildings, why do residents of our now much richer state so often argue for more school consolidation?)

Then Rep. Schoenbeck gets to business:

Today, there is one obvious challenge. We don’t have enough high school graduates interested in going into the field of education, we aren’t recruiting enough college graduates into our K-12 systems, and we aren’t retaining enough of the educators who are now teaching our children. We are losing out to the competition in the marketplace—and we are better free market capitalists than that! We need to create incentives and assurances in the educator compensation market, so that parents, students, graduates, and educators see the South Dakota education market as an economically fulfilling option as a career.

…Average educator salaries in surrounding states—our market—are higher—even after adjusting for taxes and cost of living [Rep. Lee Schoenbeck, “South Dakota’s Challenge,” posted by Bob Mercer, “The Schoenbeck Report,” Pure Pierre Politics, 2015.07.22].

When Lee Schoenbeck, Mr. Republican, agrees with this liberal blog that (1) South Dakota’s teacher shortage is real and (2) it’s caused by low pay for which (3) low taxes and cost of living do not compensate, we can safely say that portion of the debate is over. The Blue Ribboneers must raise teacher pay. We now debate how.

Before we debate, let us revel further on Rep. Schoenbeck’s agreement with this blog’s longstanding education advocacy:

…every one of us understands that the quality of life in this state we love, now and into the future, will be driven largely by the quality of the education we deliver to the children and grandchildren of our neighbors, families, friends and constituents.

…the most fundamental challenge will be in changing our mindset about the financial worth of an educator—a mindset change that the market says we must learn to survive, if survival means delivering a quality education to our children and grandchildren.

[Schoenbeck, 2015.07.21].

Right on, Lee. Right on.

It’s too bad Rep. Schoenbeck then goes wrong on policy.

Rep. Schoenbeck proposes a one-cent seasonal sales and use tax, in effect from May 1 to October 31 (to catch tourists and hunters), to raise $123,210,000. Schoenbeck chooses to further milk our regressive sales tax due to blinders he styles as political realism. Schoenbeck says voters won’t support higher property taxes or new personal or corporate income tax. Dang, and in his opening lines, Schoenbeck was sounding like a leader, a statesman who could rally voters to overcome past biases (promoted largely by Schoenbeck’s own party) and support a bold vision to preserve our most vital state function.

Schoenbeck also defaults to the sales tax because “a tax source paid in part by non-residents is more attractive.” Immediately after that justification, Schoenbeck writes, “South Dakota needs to make a strong statement on educator pay.” The statement we make with a tourist/hunter tax is that teachers may be important, but they aren’t worth money out of our own pockets. Reliance on outsiders undermines Schoenbeck’s philosophical call for South Dakotans to change “our mindset about the financial worth of an educator.”

Still, $123,210,000 is a lot of money. Applied to teacher pay, we could raise every South Dakota teacher’s salary by $13,400, which would vault us to 23rd in the nation, just a thousand bucks shy of Minnesota.

But Rep. Schoenbeck doesn’t spend that money on teacher pay. Here are his seven annual investments (to his credit, he uses the word investment):

  1. Tuition freeze for Regental campuses ($5,555,000) and vo-techs ($910,000)
  2. Increase Opportunity Scholarship $1,000 per recipient ($3,800,000)
  3. Increase vo-tech per-student allocation by $834 ($5,000,000)
  4. Adjust Regental funding formula ($3,000,000)
  5. Provide grants for private schools and instructional supplies ($4,000,000)
  6. Increase K-12 per-student allocation by up to $560 ($73,153,682)
  7. Place excess funds in reserve.

What happened to the teacher shortage? Seven plan planks, and only one directly tackles the teacher shortage. Freezing tuition, increasing the Opportunity Scholarship, and boosting vo-tech training do not target teachers and do not change the comparative economics that deter prospective teachers from entering K-12 education and deter new teachers from staying. Plank 5 is stealth vouchers, recycled from SB 189, which Schoenbeck backed in the Legislature last winter and which Senator Phil Jensen (R-33/Rapid City) is also trying to revive. That plan only drains money from public education and makes it harder to recruit teachers. And why We would sock more money away in our burgeoning reserves escapes me.

Rep. Schoenbeck directs less than half of his tax increase, $50,000,000, to K-12 education. He appears to scrounge up another $23,153,682 by eliminating categories from the K-12 funding formula and preserving only half of the small school adjustment. But if I’m reading Schoenbeck’s plan right, that $23M isn’t new money; it’s a redistribution of existing K-12 money.

Schoenbeck further sandbags the new K-12 aid by requiring that schools spend 10% of that $50 million on merit pay for no more than 10% of faculty in each school district. (Funny: Schoenbeck won’t back an income tax because he says voters reject it, but he forgets that voters rejected merit pay in 2012.) He would further penalize school districts by making them pay the cost of remedial college classes for their graduates at Regental schools and vo-techs. In the best case scenario, in which no K-12 grads need remedial classes, Schoenbeck appears to be giving K-12 schools just $45 million in new revenue, enough to raise our average pay teacher pay by $4,900—not bad, but only 48th in the nation and not catching any of our neighbors.

Rep. Schoenbeck passes up a fiscal opportunity to make South Dakota teacher pay competitive immediately. He proposes a statewide salary schedule mandating a minimum teacher salary of $39,000 by 2018, $45,000 by 2022, and $50,000 by 2026. Schoenbeck justifies the focus on starting salaries by arguing that “Compensation during the early years is the most critical factor for recruiting educators.” Raising pay for veteran teachers appears to be less urgent for Schoenbeck, who says South Dakota has “the best funded public retirement system in America.”

Unfortunately, Rep. Schoenbeck mistimes those minimum salary levels with a mandate that all teachers be “Highly Qualified” by 2018. The Schoenbeck plan demands higher quality in our teaching pool (according to Schoenbeck, the state received 585 request to hire teachers who don’t meet the “Highly Qualified” standard, a bit over 6% of our K-12 teaching workforce), in two years, but he doesn’t fully kick in the competitive salaries necessary to attract those qualified teachers for another eight years.

Schoenbeck offers one entirely non-fiscal proposal. Concerned that in-service days during the school year enhance the perception  that teachers don’t work hard enough all year, Schoenbeck suggests that school administrators “adopt flexible programs for educators to do curriculum work, pursue advanced degrees, and deal with staff training and remedial classes” during the summer. Doing in-service in the summer, says Schoenbeck, would mean we wouldn’t lose instructional days during the school year. This plank appears to be unnecessary: school districts already have the freedom to set any calendar of instructional and in-service days they like. This plank by itself also appears not to make any more money available for teachers. It sounds more like a proposal to increase the work requirements for teachers to qualify for any pay raise from the Legislature, an unnecessary quid pro quo that does nothing to improve our competitiveness with other states for teacher candidates.

We should commend Rep. Schoenbeck for issuing his K-12 funding plan. Rep. Schoenbeck agrees that yes, there really is a teacher shortage, that yes, it matters, and that yes, we have to spend money to solve it. Rep. Schoenbeck has the guts to propose a tax increase. Those statements are useful in the K-12 funding debate. Rep. Schoenbeck’s plan is useful, not as the policy we want, but as an example of how we need to focus even more on the problem at hand and not get distracted by general tuition freezes, vo-tech education, vouchers, and other hobby horses from the central problem of raising South Dakota’s teacher pay out of the national cellar.

Related Reading: Michael Larson agrees that Rep. Schoenbeck has done the state a service with his meditation on the teacher shortage and his effort to concoct a solution. The Republican cheering section has yet to weigh in on the Schoenbeck report, since the Schoenbeck report, like all real policy discussions, requires real reading and thinking.


  1. Donald Pay 2015-07-22 17:15

    You throw in all the other stuff because it has a better chance at picking up support. The voucher stuff is just political payoff. We have that in Wisconsin. It works like this: vouchers end up being paid to the people who pay off the Republicans. It’s basically laundering taxpayer funded political money for the Republican Party.

  2. troy 2015-07-22 18:17

    First, Don is correct. The other priorities improve chances of passage as it broadens the support.

    Second, I think he has $73mm of new money. Otherwise, when you add up the non K-12 enumerated items, he would be proposing to be putting a ton of money in the reserve which I think would decrease support (not increase it).

    Third, if you want the fight to be getting the money from an income tax (corporate or personal), the idea of more money for teacher salaries and these other items is dead. Your measly 20% of the legislature will not influence the funding source. I’d be focusing on holding the amount and duration of the sales tax increase if I were you.

    Fourth, I don’t think his timeline catches many out of state hunters except for the first two weekends. My guess is the date is more about not catching our Christmas shopping.

    Fifth, I think to some degree this bill needs to address management/administration with regard to insuring we are measuring, training, and making accountable the people managing the teaching workforce. Don’t do that, we are just throwing money at teachers without getting material improved deliverables.

  3. Travis Wicks 2015-07-22 19:37

    Troy, are you suggesting that the quality of teaching in this state is currently at level with the financial compensation?

    I would strongly disagree with the idea of increasing the burden on teachers in order to justify more funding. You’d eliminate us being competitive in attracting candidates from other states in the area. “Get paid $5000 less on average than North Dakota instead of $10,000, but I have to do more work to still get paid less than I already do? Come on, that’s insinuating we don’t work enough and deserve the current level of pay we get.

  4. Donald Pay 2015-07-22 20:45

    So, I sort of agree with Troy. If your priority is to solve some education funding issues, you can’t expect to do that while pushing for the other necessary need in South Dakota: tax fairness.

    I’d prefer a steeply progressive personal and corporate income tax on incomes over the mean income. Roughly 40 percent of the earners of income would pay any tax, and it would be steeply progressive, so that the second to the top quintile would pay very little. In South Dakota, the big money boys run the show and own 80 percent or more of the Legislature. An income tax won’t pass. Until the vast majority of the people wake up to the fact that South Dakota’s tax structure is meant to keep the middle class down, nothing is going to happen on that front.

    So. you are left with a regressive tax to solve an education issue. It’s typical Republicanism. Somebody except the rich is going to pay to solve the problem they created.

  5. Nick Nemec 2015-07-22 20:54

    I read Lee Schoenbeck’s report. I disagree that fractional cents are hard to figure, I also understand the thought process behind getting a higher % paid by out of state visitors with the May-October tax increase proposal, but would prefer a year round tax with an exemption on groceries. A May to October tax increase would require retailers to reprogram their cash registers twice a year, admittedly I don’t know how much of a problem this would be. Two semi annual tax changes every year might cause people and retailers to game the dates of major purchases.

  6. Nick Nemec 2015-07-22 20:59

    The voucher proposal for private schools is not a good idea. We don’t adequately fund public schools as it is, we don’t need to steal from public education to fund private schools.

  7. grudznick 2015-07-22 21:49

    I agree with Mr. Nemec. Vouchers are tax breaks for people who think our dandy public schools aren’t good enough for their kids but then they want their kids to play on the football team.

    No vouchers, sayeth grudznick.

  8. MOSES 2015-07-22 22:38

    Higher wages for teachers good luck.Lets have that task force meeting to get those legislators paid then lets go home.

  9. Deb Geelsdottir 2015-07-22 23:36

    Wait. Schoenbeck has a tax plan with a better chance than an ice cube in hell. Okay, good.

    Schoenbeck supports the knowledge that teacher pay is too low. Good again.

    Schoenbeck wants to spend most of the money raised on education related stuff, but not teacher pay. Huh?

  10. MD 2015-07-23 09:38

    One of the ways that many health care systems are responding to the affordable care act is through bringing health insurance in house. Building a health insurance system as a part of their health care system allows them to manage administrative costs, which allows them to keep more of the 15% administrative cost share to use for other, non health insurance related expenses. The most obvious examples are Sanford and Avera Health Plans.

    Now, think of all the student loan debt that is being accumulated by SD college students. While federal loans are repaid directly to the federal government, many of the private loans are obtained from out of state, and thus, the interest payments and the profit from these loans are exported out of state.
    What if we brought in a similar concept as health care into education? Develop a system for the state to provide student loans at lower interest rates, then they can gain some of that profit that they are currently exporting as well as potentially provide a way for student loan forgiveness for individuals in high demand jobs.
    Sure it is not a short term solution, but none of the solutions offered by Rep. Schoenbeck were particularly short term solutions. This is a way of building up a system for the future.

  11. Wayne B. 2015-07-23 11:43

    I do like the idea of MD’s to bring Student Loans in-house for South Dakota, but only if we ear mark the interest for supporting education.

    Cory, you wrote a couple things that caught my attention:

    [Schoenbeck observes that just two decades after statehood, South Dakota had 4,518 schoolhouses, which I’d wager is well over four times as many instructional centers as we have today. (Hmm… if a fledging state could afford so many school buildings, why do residents of our now much richer state so often argue for more school consolidation?)]

    How many of those schools were one-room, one-teacher school houses?

    [Schoenbeck also defaults to the sales tax because “a tax source paid in part by non-residents is more attractive.” Immediately after that justification, Schoenbeck writes, “South Dakota needs to make a strong statement on educator pay.” The statement we make with a tourist/hunter tax is that teachers may be important, but they aren’t worth money out of our own pockets. Reliance on outsiders undermines Schoenbeck’s philosophical call for South Dakotans to change “our mindset about the financial worth of an educator.”]

    Aside from the astute assertion that an income tax is DOA, perhaps if we adjust our lens a little and view the proposal from the mindset that everyone living in and visiting South Dakota benefits from a better educated populace, it’ll be more palatable to ask those who come and enjoy our state to help ensure the roads they drive on are designed by well educated engineers, etc.

    I don’t see why it should be only during certain months, though – make it year round.

  12. CLCJM 2015-07-23 12:07

    I think Schoenbeck is just getting a proposal out there before the BR panel has a chance to suggest any other ideas. He admits the problem exists because it’s so obvious that it can no longer be denied. But then he just plays the same old shell game shuffling money around to the Republicans pet cause, i.e. vouchers that as Donald accurately describes it as laundering tax payer money to their supporters. Plus Schoenbeck’s plan will put more money in their personal piggy bank, the general fund!

    I really do not believe the Republicans will do what is best. They just want to make it look like they care and then set up a system that once again benefits them at the expense of everyone else. We’ve had how many panels study this problem? Even if the panel recommends real, appropriate, sensible solutions, they’ll just ignore them and do what they want, never mind the consequences!!

  13. caheidelberger Post author | 2015-07-23 14:22

    Troy, Schoenbeck does mention that he doesn’t want the seasonal tax to hit our Christmas shopping. Interestingly, as I glance through the BFM data, I find that the month with the strongest sales tax revenue in FY2015 was January 2015.

  14. caheidelberger Post author | 2015-07-23 14:39

    I agree with Don’s and Troy’s observation that the Schoenbeck proposal appears to be an effort to put forward a plan that stands a chance of passing in the Legislature. Schoenbeck’s own text, his dismissal of an income tax and higher property tax, suggests that is the case, although his text focuses on his perception of what voters want rather than a direct statement of what may pass among his fellow Republicans. But once again, as he does with merit pay, Schoenbeck ignores the fact that voters shot down an extra-penny sales tax to benefit education and health in 2012. Apparently, when Schoenbeck wants to tell us a plan is impossible, he looks at voter sentiment, but when Schoenbeck wants his plan to pass, he ignores the demonstrated sentiment of the voters.

    Schoenbeck’s proposal smells like legislative sausage-making. I suppose that’s fine if you’re a pragmatic legislator… but isn’t it a bit early to grind the sausage? Consider: if we can get conservative Republican Schoenbeck to agree that we need to tackle the teacher shortage by raising revenue for teacher pay, how do we know we can’t convince other conservative Republicans? If the teacher shortage problem is that obvious and urgent, why do we need any more complicated solution than (1) raise tax X and (2) give the money to teachers? If we can’t convince 36 Representatives and 18 Senators of that basic need, can we in good conscience try to buy their votes by offering to engage in policies that are bad for education, like merit pay and stealth vouchers?

    Besides, before we go ape and adopt Schoenbeck’s Dagwood sandwich of policies that won’t affect the teacher shortage, I offer a much simpler, tighter, faster plan that will do more to alleviate the teacher shortage by raising every teacher’s pay $20,000 in return for a pause on continuing contract. Compromise is fine, but let’s strive for effective compromise.

  15. caheidelberger Post author | 2015-07-23 14:42

    Wayne, if we want to capture wealth from outsiders who benefit from our social contract, why not go for the corporate income tax that would capture the benefits Wal-Mart and other corporations enjoy every day, rather than the smooth roads and polite, literate ticket-takers with whom tourists interact for a brief summer stay? Why not hit the corporations as they accumulate wealth rather than regular Americans as they try to enjoy their wealth on vacation?

  16. David Newquist 2015-07-23 15:41

    While Schoenbeck gives a nice vision of the essential role schools played in building and shaping our communities, he quickly slips into corporatese. He talks about a need to change the mindset about the “financial worth” of an educator. And he says that is a change that the “market’ says we must make. This could be a conversation in the old New Orleans slave market. Then he issues the ultimate motive: “This is a business we own and have a responsibility to run effectively.

    The decline in education began when school boards began chanting that absurd cliche that schools should be run like businesses. Ironically, while many countries throughout the world began to copy the U.S. system to elevate and make more effective the education they delivered, the U.S. began to regard schools as hamburger franchises in which students were conditioned in how to flip burgers and recite “have a nice day.” Now most of those countries that ended their system of “streaming students” into academic, technical, and vocational tracks and adopted the U.S. mode of a liberal arts curriculum as the basis for all education have far surpassed the U.S. in academic achievement. Finland is among those leaders.

    But no one is asking teachers what policies and what measures of accountability would best serve students and communities. They apparently don’t have the financial worth to consult. Instead, we keep frittering with notions of how to grade them like meat carcasses emerging from the kill floor.

    The language in which proposals are framed generally determine the attitude and method with which they will be applied The salaries paid teachers are an eloquent expression of the value placed on education. Even if South Dakota would manage to raise the salaries up off the dregs status into mid-range, there are many reasons why a well-educated and talented person would not choose to teach in South Dakota. Look at the language with which education and educators are talked about.

  17. Troy 2015-07-24 06:43

    Two comments:

    1). January is the biggest month for collections because it from December sales.

    2). The vouchers is for low income students to attend private schools. The amount of the subsidy is below the cost of education so it requires even more charitable donations to private schools (Don’t forget higher public school teacher salaries will require higher private school salaries which will require even more donations).

    Do you really think private school supporters are going to support higher taxes that require greater donations without something?

    3). There are a lot of ways this can die. I’d be focusing on how to get it to pass.

  18. larry kurtz 2015-07-24 09:10

    Why anyone teaches in South Dakota public schools remains a mystery.

  19. caheidelberger Post author | 2015-07-24 09:13

    David, I was hoping that Schoenbeck’s comment about changing the mindset about the financial worth of an educator signaled a recognition that South Dakota does not value teachers enough and that we must raise their pay to do so. But you are right that the plan proposed slips away from that hoped-for conclusion.

    Troy, why should private school supporters or anyone else be able to extort tax dollars from a necessary plan to raise teacher pay in the public education system? Why can’t we build a majority who recognize that public education is necessary and valuable to all South Dakotans, even the ones who do not have kids in the public schools?

    And don’t trot out the “Cory and his liberals hate the poor” smokescreen. I believe that if we are concerned about low-income students, the first thing we do as public policy makers is make the public schools as strong as we can, not wave illusory scholarships at the poor and leave them at the whim of other benefactors to make up the difference in their private-school tuition. If private schools think its that important to get low-income kids out of the public school system, why don’t they offer full scholarships out of the goodness of their own hearts?

    It’s not my job, nor should it be the Legislature’s job, to turn the effort to solve the teacher shortage into a pork buffet for special interests.

  20. Troy 2015-07-24 10:00


    If you think giving some poor families a private school choice that will hit private school supporters twice (taxes and donations) is a pork buffet. . . . The whole proposal is a bork buffet.

  21. troy 2015-07-24 10:47


    I somehow missed your comment above.

    I didn’t intend to insinuate what you perceived my comment to be. I value the impact of good management on issues of workplace environment, coordination, planning, execution which all impact the final product and believe it gets insufficient attention when we talk about education beyond teacher salaries. A teacher in a good environment with good peer & community coordination, good planning, good execution will produce better results for students without “working harder” AND it will improve motivation in all aspects of their life (teaching, at home, and in their community).

  22. Nick Nemec 2015-07-24 11:43

    If private school supporters are hit twice it is by their own choosing. Apparently there is something about private school they like and are willing privately fund, that doesn’t relieve them of their duty as citizens to fund, through their tax dollars, a free and equitable system of public schools. There should be no quid pro quo tossed out to private school patrons to gain their support.

  23. troy 2015-07-24 12:12


    Similarly, the state and local taxpayers should appreciate the $30mm of tax burden (doesn’t include capital outlay required) relieved because of Sioux Falls Catholic Schools, Sioux Falls Christian, and Sioux Falls Lutheran schools.

    In fact, if private schools didn’t exist, we’d need this tax increase and more just to educate all these kids and not a dollar for increased teacher salaries.

    But, maybe this discussion isn’t about ALL kids and education and Cory is right it is just a pork buffet. Good to know this now. Thanks Nick for pointing that out.

  24. Travis Wicks 2015-07-24 12:27

    Troy, perhaps I’m a little sensitive to the subject, but it sounded to me like you were suggesting there needed to be some kind of greater return/result to justify increasing funding to schools.

    Your response back to me also sounds like you don’t think those good environments you describe are already in place in most school districts.

    I will ask it simply: Is the quality of K-12 education in the state equal to the average salary of teachers? If you believe yes, then I get where you’re going with your suggestions. If you believe no, the. We need to find a way to increase monies to the schools in our state to pay teachers a more appropriate salary without any extra conditions or systems of accountability.

  25. Travis Wicks 2015-07-24 12:37

    Kurtz, I teach in this state because I get to do something I’m passionate about, and I would rather be working in the field I believe I am best suited for, even though in order to do that I have to keep a tiny sliver of hope that some real change will come in how the state values my profession.

    I am also fortunate enough to be able to teach in this state because my wife has a job that, between the two of us, allows us to live comfortably enough. I never planned to be wealthy from teaching, I just wanted to earn enough to make a decent living and own my own home and have a reliable vehicle, which I couldn’t necessarily do if I were living off of just my income.

  26. troy 2015-07-24 12:44


    1) My first priority is the kids. Everything else is secondary. Everything.

    2) I think there can be significant impact on the quality of education with greater emphasis on management. I have no assurance this is the case and have significant anecdotal information management of schools is inadequate. (as a parent/taxpayer, nearly all information is anecdotal as measuring management is not just able to be done quantitatively)

    3) In the real world (which education is part of), everything comes with conditions and accountability. Asking for more resources without expectations of conditions and accountability is fantasy. It happens no place else and it shouldn’t happen in education.

    If teachers are and will continue to provide quality education to kids, they should welcome the accountability. If this is just about moving these middle class salaries above other middle class salaries relative to surrounding states, you can expect any proposal for higher teacher salaries to fail.

  27. Travis Wicks 2015-07-24 12:55

    Troy, I understand those points you make, but it didn’t answer my question. It’s a simple yes or no. I can respect either one.

    Just to clarify, though, I’m fully aware of how the real world works. It’s a little condescending to infer or suggest people in education don’t get that. I spend as much time dealing with the real world as you do, I would assume.

    Also, when compensation doesn’t match work output, there should be no extra burdens added to increase compensation. That doesn’t even the gap between the two, it just keeps the imbalance in place at a higher output/compensation level. When workers/employees are in situations like that, they can either accept the imbalance, fight to change it, or leave that line of work for a new field or location where they are compensated more fairly.

  28. David Newquist 2015-07-24 13:00

    If there are “management” problems within the schools, they generally result from school boards hiring superintendents and principals who carry out the notional agendas of school boards who assume that teachers are low-level laborers who have to be ordered, monitored, and ruled over like bonded servants. It is as if there is not anything of value in the studies and experiences of thousands of teachers and in the colleges of education that have any import on how schools can be effectively run. There is much excellent teaching going on in South Dakota,l but it has to be done as a subversive activity so that those who are so obsessed with managing and holding teachers accountable for silly practices that they know have nothing to do with education don’t have a pretext for intruding upon and impeding what actual teaching is actually taking place. There are districts where administrators are actual educators and facilitate the work of their teachers. But in this region, you have to go to Minnesota to find them.

  29. troy 2015-07-24 13:31


    I didn’t answer your question possibly because I may not understand it.

    That said, if your point is the public should pay teachers more because they are currently getting a bargain (I think that may be what you mean when you say “imbalance”), it isn’t going to be persuasive to the general public. Is the food we eat a bargain? Is the police protection we get a bargain? Is the benefit we get from medical advances a bargain? Is the internet a bargain? Cost compared to the benefit they are all bargains. At the end of the day, everything I purchase is more valuable to me than the money in my pocket or an alternative expenditure. If it weren’t, I wouldn’t buy it. Life itself is a bargain.

    Also, every single organization/entity/endeavor should be constantly pursuing improvement. Status quo is just that and satisfaction with status quo is the first step to decline. Cory and Lee both call this an “investment.” Investments promise future returns.

    Further, the reality is a large percentage of the population is not satisfied with the output (remember it was just two elections ago an initiative for higher teacher salaries was defeated at the polls). You want their support they will expect change/improvement.

    Finally, there are a lot of people in the town you live in who will not be getting raises, much less significant raises (police officers, state employees, garbage collectors, welders, mechanics, store clerks) who will be asked to pay higher taxes. An increase of teachers salaries will not happen without expectations of it impacting the deliverable to students.

  30. Travis Wicks 2015-07-24 13:53

    This may or may not be a compliment, but you definitely debate like a politician, Troy!

    That initiative to raise salaries was voted down because it wouldn’t have truly improved salaries, it would have created an environment where teaching was more competitive than collaborative. I voted against it because it was a meager bonus for the teachers who best played the game of looking like the best 5 teachers in the district. It would have created resentment and would have lowered productivity.

    I don’t hear a lot of complaints about the quality of education in my area in terms of output. As far as your general “improvement” point, I believe we can’t look at it in a basic economical way. Public schools can’t operate in the competitive marketplace like businesses do, because we don’t create a product or a return that is easily or tangibly quantified. In my opinion, people who believe that standardized tests are reliable indicators of a profitable result or high-quality product are wrong.

    Children, like adults, are unique and cannot be easily defined by a universal assessment that measures and quantifies achievement in the exact same way. I don’t teach that way, and I don’t place much stock in what those tests say about my students who don’t fit the “norm.”

    I know there are philosophical and political differences between our views on this, and I will respect and try to understand your perspective, and I hope that you can do the same. We may actually find a solution by finding the middle ground and being able to see where the other side is coming from. Unfortunately, that is not how our state and federal governments are operating today.

  31. Travis Wicks 2015-07-24 14:02

    One more point, Troy, I believe all of those workers you mention (state workers, policeman, etc.) deserve to make a livable wage as well. I will gladly argue on their behalf as well as mine! I don’t believe I deserve to be paid more INSTEAD of them, I believe everyone who works full time in service of their community, county, state, or country, should be paid a good and decent salary. I will gladly pay more taxes to ensure that. While I’m at it, I’d also pay more taxes to give everyone universal healthcare and free higher education.

    Hmmm, maybe I should be living in Norway, where my great-grandparents came from. They already do all those things there. Naaaah, I’d rather try to see that the U.S. is the best country in the world for all it’s citizens.

  32. troy 2015-07-24 14:27


    You don’t know if there are philosophical or political differences between us on the specifics of this proposal. I may or may not be relevant for you to know I was raised by a single teacher and two of my daughters are teachers.

    I just want you to know measuring the safety provided by our police officers, care by nurses, or most jobs in the United States is easily measured with regard to output. Just know, your “customers” (your parents, students, and neighbors are making qualitative assessments of our teachers (as they are police officers, nurses, etc.). And, as satisfied as they may be with their police protection and schools, everyday people expect them to get better. just like their employer (private or public) expects of them. I’m just saying the implication “education is different” is not persuasive to the general public.

    Imagine how this sounds: A welder or accountant or nurse goes to their boss and says “I think I’m underpaid based on my output and deserve a raise. Don’t expect me to do anything better or different though.” Do you think they will get a raise or dismissed?

    You mention how collaborative and cooperative education is. If so, management is actually even more vital to the quality of education. No teacher is an island. Your ability to maximize the potential of a student in your class depends on how well those around you do your job more than someone whose job isn’t collaborative and cooperative.

    Beyond your own work environment and its impact on your motivation, the students you get in the Fall will be better prepared to take advantage of your best effort and when they graduate your best effort will have the best fruits. One weak link over the course of 12 school years significantly impairs the effect of your efforts.

  33. Travis Wicks 2015-07-24 14:54

    Just because the statement that education is different from business is possibly not persuasive, it doesn’t make it less true.

    And because of that, the comparison to a welder is a moot point.

    If there were a way to be able to definitively quantify and assess the quality of students’ education, I’d agree with your point on output. As it is, I’m not a smart enough person to know that other than through my personal experiences with each specific student I’ve taught. Schools are not cookie cutter factories, the product doesn’t arrive in the same condition and improvement/success doesn’t look the same for every student.

    I inferred our differences in philosophy based on your comments and responses, if I’m incorrect, I sincerely apologize for the erroneous assumption.

    And that’s wonderful that your mother was a teacher, and your daughters are teachers as well. I have an aunt who is a music teacher, and another who teaches English. Other than that, the only thing that drew me into education was the opportunity to do good in service of others and because I’ve always enjoyed working with children. Maybe it’s because I’ll never grow up!

  34. troy 2015-07-24 15:20

    Travis, rather than getting caught up in the example because the specific isn’t critical to the point, I’ll say it different:

    Imagine how this sounds: Any employee goes to their boss/employer and says “I think I’m underpaid based on my output and deserve a raise. Don’t expect me to do anything better or different though.” Do you think they will get a raise or dismissed?

    No matter how justified you think extra money for teacher salaries is based on your “output relative to your compensation” (you introduced economics to this discussion) does not help the cause you are advocating to be heard saying: “Teachers are underpaid and deserve a raise. Don’t expect me to do anything better or different though.”

  35. Travis Wicks 2015-07-24 15:25

    Fair enough. How about if every employee in every plastics factory went to their employers and said that they are underpaid for the work they are doing? Does it sound as ridiculous? To me, it sounds like collective bargaining.

  36. caheidelberger Post author | 2015-07-24 15:32

    Troy, remind me why you and Schoenbeck are even talking about private school here. Is this subsidy for private school just a sop to win votes from a caucus that hasn’t yet been polled on a bill that hasn’t been presented? Or are you telling me that handing out state money (cleverly disguised as tax credits for private donors) for homeschool materials and private school tuition (see Senate Bill 189 for Schoenbeck’s and Jensen’s model) somehow becomes a revenue source that allows us to pay public school teachers more? Or does the private school subsidy expand private school enrollment, shrink public school enrollment, and allow public schools to lay off teachers and pay the remaining teachers more?

    Troy, you are also barking up a different tree from the Blue Ribbon panel. Recall that Senator Soholt said the Blue Ribbon panel is assuming that the K-12 schools are working well: teachers are teaching, students are learning. Extra duties, bureaucracy, “accountability” aren’t part of the discussion. The Blue Ribbon panel is operating from Travis’s starting point: teachers are doing a lot of work for which we aren’t paying them and for which surrounding states are. We are thus losing teachers to surrounding states. (See also Karl Gehrke’s interview with new USD Ed dean Donald Easton-Brooks, who said—around minute 9—quality teachers are leaving South Dakota for other states “and I would imagine it had a lot to do with salary than anything else.”) Why complicate the issue? Do you dispute Senator Soholt’s assertion? Do you think teachers do not deserve one penny more unless they do more work or submit to additional conditions in their employment? You say that the argument that we should pay teachers more without condition won’t be “persuasive,” but as Travis keenly notices, you quite politically avoid answering Travis’s original question about whether you accept the argument.

    How about we establish our first principles before we give up on persuading the state of those first principles and start compromising those principles?

    Welders? Sure, roll with that: your South Dakota welder makes 20 metal boxes a day. The welder goes to the boss and saying, “Give me more money.” The boss replies, “Give me 10 more boxes a day.” The welder sees he can move to Minnesota, get a raise, and still make just 20 boxes a day. What does the welder do?

    If we’re going to talk about the “persuasiveness” of the arguments behind our policy proposals, I would suggest that the teachers we are trying to recruit and retain won’t find it “persuasive” to be told that they can get more money in South Dakota if they do more work when other states aren’t demanding that same additional work for their higher salaries. They’ll still go to Minnesota, we’ll still be short on teachers, your and Schoenbeck’s policy won’t solve the primary problem it was supposed to solve, and we’ll have imposed a new tax to fill a bunch of other political baskets, one of which, the stealth vouchers, will actually make the public education situation worse. A compromise that scratches your itch but gives me more fleas is not a compromise; it’s capitulation.

    Travis, don’t give us up for Norway!

  37. Travis Wicks 2015-07-24 15:36

    No worries, Cory, I’m a “True-Blue” South Dakotan. ;)

  38. troy 2015-07-24 16:18

    Travis and Cory,

    More money for teacher pay has been argued for as long as I can remember (long before I could vote). At the end of the day, these arguments you have been making haven’t been persuasive. The reason they aren’t persuasive is less important than the fact they didn’t persuade.

    “Teachers are underpaid compared to neighboring states and our quality of their output (give us more money)”- Heard that. Didn’t persuade. The reason it isn’t persuasive is less important than the fact it didn’t persuade.

    “Education is different” than organizations/entities/endeavors and we can’t be held accountable (but give us more money)”- Heard that. Didn’t persuade. The reason it isn’t persuasive is less important than the fact it didn’t persuade.

    “This is about public school kids. We don’t care about private school kids (but pay more taxes for public school kids because that is your duty)”- Heard that. Didn’t persuade. The reason it isn’t persuasive is less important than the fact it didn’t persuade.

    There are two realities:

    1) It wasn’t very long ago that a proposal to increase taxes for education failed at the ballot box.

    2) Besides Bernie Hunhoff, Lee Schoenbeck has been in and out of the legislature over the past twenty years and seen bills pass and fail. If he went to this effort, he believes it has a chance at building a viable coalition. Personally, I think it needs a focus on management that will offer greater bang for the buck for even broader support. Lee either didn’t think of this aspect or he disagrees.

    My goal here was to shift the argument to ones that may persuade. But, go with what you’ve always done. I wish you luck.

  39. Travis Wicks 2015-07-24 16:37

    To extrapolate, you’re saying that we may actually have valid points, but they’re irrelevant because they don’t persuade you (either specifically or in general). Does sound right?

    If I agree with you on your arguments for why they aren’t persuasive (and I don’t, for the record), are you suggesting that we should reframe the argument in a way that is more feasible to the general public?

    You may have a good point that we have been making the same argument over and over.

    Perhaps we do need a new approach in how to make our case. I will not stop striving to make it right, though. The current situation we’re in is a travesty. Something must change. If the shortage gets any worse, many of our public schools cannot continue to be compliant with state/federal regulations.

  40. Porter Lansing 2015-07-24 18:05

    Rep. Schoenbeck’s deceptive stratagem to funnel money to evangelical Protestant Christian schools through vouchers is Koch Brothers 101. His calling for “higher teacher pay” but not letting them near the dangling carrot is a typical Conservative tactic. Here’s their underlying floorboard ….
    No one is forced to be teacher Teaching is a choice like any other profession. If there are a lot people willing to teach at a particular pay rate, then it is prudent to pay that rate and no more. If everyone who teaches at a rate that is unacceptable to themselves were to stop teaching, then there would be a shortage and pay rates would go up. But, teachers teach because of the passion for what they do, and that is admirable. However, this “feeling good” about what they do, is a reward that enables them to be paid less. Look at his another way. If you need someone to perform X, and you can get that for $Y, why would a Republican pay $(Y+n) even if you value it higher than they do. Look, teachers, if you have skills that are valuable in a non-education setting, find out what they are worth and decide if you can live with the difference. Asking for Republican rewards “just because” is foolish since the easy answer is always “because we don’t have to”. –

  41. Troy 2015-07-25 04:51


    I suppose “valid” can be in the eyes of the beholder. However, an argument intended to convince/justify which fails convince/justify might have a fundamental flaw. Ponder on it.

  42. larry kurtz 2015-07-25 08:37

    66 county seats, 6+ regental universities, and a state capital perched on the edge of Hell: red state collapse on parade.

  43. larry kurtz 2015-07-25 08:38

    Schoenbeck is paid to have opinions: why his apologists visit here remains a mystery.

  44. caheidelberger Post author | 2015-07-25 10:12

    Troy’s dodge becomes maddening. He is trying to make past errors gospel and shift us away from any further effort to change minds.

    Troy’s thinking should invalidate Schoenbeck’s proposal. Troy acknowledges that voters recently rejected a tax increase for education, and that was a sales tax increase. Schoenbeck is proposing a sales tax increase. Therefore, Schoenbeck is wasting our time trying to persuade us of something voters found unpersuasive, right?

    Troy wants us to stop trying to persuade people to do the right thing. Instead, he advocates that we do the wrong thing, a plan that, as I said above, will not alleviate the teacher shortage and will simply hand candy to other pet projects. The fact that I haven’t won an argument with the public does not oblige me to advocate a misdirected, ineffective policy.

    And how do we know the public won’t be persuaded this time? Minds change as conditions change. The teacher shortage has gotten worse, it has gotten more press, and it is being accepted as urgent fact by more legislators, including Rep. Schoenbeck. Why should I concede the fight before we’ve had the fight? Thinking of The Princess Bride, should I really throw down my sword just because Westley gets up from the bed and tells me to? Or shall we actually have our duel in the 2016 session and see whose argument prevails? (Sorry to cast myself as Prince Humperdinck here, but I hope you get the idea.)

    And really, why should I take Troy’s deal? If I get Democrats (and maybe others who actually pay attention to the data I’ve been presenting for years, now confirmed by the teacher shortage and maybe by the Blue Ribbon panel) to dig in and demand a clean teacher pay bill, we either win (huge!) or we lose and the status quo remains in its current awful condition. If Democrats surrender to Troy’s pragmatism and the Legislature passes the Schoenbeck plan, the teacher shortage remains as bad as ever, the other parts of the plan make the teacher shortage and public education worse, and we’re stuck with a higher tax that doesn’t do what it was supposed to do. Fight, and teachers and kids might win. Surrender, and teachers and kids definitely lose.

  45. caheidelberger Post author | 2015-07-25 10:26

    That said, Larry, I continue to welcome Troy here, because his commentary has helped us understand a possible motivation behind the Schoenbeck plan. It’s not about really solving the problem; it may be about addressing the perception that a majority of South Dakota legislators will not take the teacher shortage and K-12 education seriously enough to pass a clean teacher-pay/school-funding bill and may have to be bought with promises to fund their bad K-12 policies.

  46. larry kurtz 2015-07-25 11:19

    Republicans are evil.

  47. Porter Lansing 2015-07-25 11:44

    That was weak, Mr. Kurtz. Somewhere one of your teachers is cringing from your lack of effort. Try some alliteration, maybe. “Republicans are egregious, execrable examples of parsimonious, prejudiced piggishness.” Now, get back to us when you’re ready to entertain the group.

  48. O 2015-07-25 12:23

    Peter: “If everyone who teaches at a rate that is unacceptable to themselves were to stop teaching, then there would be a shortage and pay rates would go up.”

    That is half of what is happening now. Classrooms are not being staffed because districts cannot hire teachers to fill positions. SD has an odd, reverse “free market” skew going on with teacher pay: instead of the wages being driven higher, districts look at low-paying neighbors (within the SD border) and decide to stay on par the neighbor in low teacher pay. SD has a consortium of repression rather than inflation for attraction on the teacher wage issue.

    I believe this will be the a large part of discussion at the second meeting of the BRTF in August.

  49. larry kurtz 2015-07-25 13:02

    Mr. Lansing, Republicans scheme to ensure those least able to pay will subsidize the upper crust then wonder why brains circle the red state drain while immigrants replace talent with people who cannot vote and old, white retirees pay property taxes with Social Security proceeds to prime the pump.

    Brilliant in a Greco kind of way.

  50. CLCJM 2015-07-25 13:26

    Really appreciate your last two comments, Cory. Pretty well sums it all up. Republicans chant supply and demand until it requires them to actually pay more for a valuable resource instead of being able to get their needs met at the expense of those who can least afford it! I so appreciate your attempts to educate the people on what really is happening in our government! Thank you! And thank you to all that comment on these topics whether pro or con. Communication is crucial to understanding and finding solutions. And if we can not agree well, “Know thy enemy”!!!

  51. Lee Schoenbeck 2015-07-25 14:19

    I’ve mostly stayed out of this debate, but I will share a few comments, because this is something worth fighting for.
    First, the comments above about the proposal building reserves, came from somebody who didn’t read it, and understand why you need flexibility to meet education demands inTo the future. I suggest they read it first, then ponder, then comment.
    Second, the private school aspect is 2% of the total funding, and it is limited to low income families. To oppose education funding and spew the hyperbole above, is to define how to not solve a problem. You can’t get where you want to get to, without the people that support the private school low-income plank. They may say that 2% is grossly inadequate, but to have the push coming from your side is… Well, ridiculous.

    Third, tech schools have teachers too – do your people understand that the tech plank funds teacher pay? Apparently not.

    Fourth, higher Ed is taught by…..teachers. Do your people understand that higher Ed funding goes to teachers.

    Fifth, where is the discussion about the most significant policy change…driving state minimums? Instead of looking at the real policy issues, they spew MSNBC lines. I understand that’s the easy way out, but this is about making people think bigger picture.
    Sixth, about every nuances aimed at broadening this to bring more votes into the picture…is opposed by your readers. Apparently they either thrive on failure, or just like being a part of the problem.

    Finally, this plan, or some ideation of it goes no where, and you get the status quo you apparently love, unless you decide to grab an oar and help pull….and also quit spitting at people that can help you.

  52. larry kurtz 2015-07-25 14:58


  53. larry kurtz 2015-07-25 15:00

    Democrats = safe. Republicans = cheap.

  54. larry kurtz 2015-07-25 15:20

    Governance by gun to the head: priceless.

  55. caheidelberger Post author | 2015-07-25 17:38

    Lee, on point #2: Why won’t the private school boosters support raising teacher pay to competitive market level on its own? Why do they think South Dakota public schools should continue to pay teachers less than what the market everywhere else offers? Do they really believe the market is wrong? Or are they just selfish and insist that their support for public education be bought with handouts (verging on unconstitutional) to their special interest?

    So what other special interests are allowed to hold this plan hostage (Larry’s comment may be apt)? Can dairy farmers say, “No money for teachers unless we get 2% of Schoenbeck’s funding to reinstate EB-5 loans”?

    Can the SD Retailers say, “No money for teachers unless we get 2% of Schoenbeck’s tax to reimburse us for having to pay kids $8.50 an hour”?

    Can the SD Corn Growers say, “No money for teachers unless we get 2% of Schoenbeck’s tax for an additional ethanol subsidy”?

    Can Four Directions, “No money for teachers unless we get 2% of Schoenbeck’s tax for two satellite voting stations on every reservation”?

    Can we bloggers say, “No money for teachers unless we get 2% of Schoenbeck’s tax for a shield-law fund to help us pay legal expenses against anyone who tries taking us to court for our brave reporting and commentary?

    Where does it end, Lee? Or better yet, why does it even have to begin? Why cave to special interests before we’ve even seen a plan, let alone started to caucus (or have we?)? Why can’t we look everyone in the eye and say, “Hey, how about we all go for one clean plan to raise teacher pay, because morality says we should and the market says we must”?

    I’m not convinced these special interests are trying to help us, Lee. And rather than offering them candy right away for needs that have yet to be proven (specifically, what pressing need is there for merit pay, and why should we ignore the lack of evidence that it works? What pressing need is there for stealth vouchers? why don’t those programs have to slog through eleven interim studies like teacher pay has?), why don’t we wait until those groups come forward and say, “We don’t think the teacher shortage deserves action, but we’ll vote to do something if you give us pork”?

    See, Lee, I don’t even know with whom we are compromising, or how dug in those special interests are, or why. They haven’t even heard the evidence the Blue Ribbon panel will present. Are you telling me they’ve already made up their minds about their position, regardless of whatever evidence or preordained conclusions the Governor’s panel offers? If the situation is really that desperate, that grim, that certain to ignore evidence in favor of personal hobbyhorse, then I want to hear the people riding those horses pause and say exactly what they want.

  56. mike from iowa 2015-07-25 19:39

    Wingnuts in SoDak have been basically ignoring education demands since jesus first saddled up a dinosaur. What you had,you now have.What you will have you already have.

  57. Troy 2015-07-25 21:26


    I think you and your caucus should take the lead. Best of luck.

  58. larry kurtz 2015-07-25 22:49

    Troy will have the last word over my swinging dead cat.

  59. caheidelberger Post author | 2015-07-26 21:41

    Troy, I’d be happy to lead whatever caucus wants to follow in a fight for a clean teacher pay raise bill. Keep it simple, solve the one big problem we all agree is hurting South Dakota. I see no reason to give away the farm now. Let’s put together that simple bill, ask for the votes. If we don’t get the votes, then we talk about amendments to build a passing (and if necessary, veto-proof) coalition. But we don’t sell our souls to the devil—or, in less apocalyptic rhetoric, we don’t allow the amendments to include plans that undermine our efforts to solve problem #1, the underfunding of teacher pay. And if that doesn’t work… then we campaign like heck for new legislators to make my clean-bill caucus the majority and pass it in 2017 with an emergency clause to put more money in teachers’ pockets by March 1, 2017.

  60. CLCJM 2015-07-26 22:11

    Woohoo, Cory, you go for it! I’d be supporting any caucus you could get organized! I’ve been helping with several petitions and if that’s what we need for this particular problem I’m all for it! Keep us informed if you start something! The ballot may be long next election but that’s democracy in action! It also seems to be the only way for the people in South Dakota to be heard!!

  61. caheidelberger Post author | 2015-07-27 07:07

    CLCJM, teacher pay won’t be a ballot issue, or at least not an initiative. Let’s see the Blue Ribbon K-12 process play out. Let’s see what documents and evidence they bring to our attention. Let’s see what proposal legislators craft on that basis. Perhaps they will listen and craft a clean teacher-pay-raise bill. We can rally legislators to focus the debate on how much and by what revenue source. If the Legislature goes beyond that and does something counterproductive like the Schoenbeck plan, we may have to refer it to a public vote and kill it as we did HB 1234 in 2012.

  62. Nick Nemec 2015-07-27 07:49

    Troy belongs to the Do Nothing Caucus. I suspect he is not the only one. South Dakota is 51st in teacher pay and they are good with that.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.