Governor Daugaard’s Blue Ribbon K-12 panel holds its second meeting on Wednesday, August 19, in Pierre. I’m not sure what they have left to talk about, since it is abundantly clear that South Dakota must raise teacher pay to combat its growing teacher shortage. Arizona recognizes that… and now Kansas is doing the exact opposite to prove the point and show South Dakota what not to do. Teacher pay in Kansas is several thousand dollars more than in South Dakota, but that still places Kansas closer to the bottom than the top. According to Valerie Strauss, Governor Sam Brownback’s government has cut funding for public schools, cut teachers’ labor rights, and adopted ALEC-crafted legislation to allow school districts to hire unlicensed teachers.
Kansas has entered the Chase Teachers Out of The State derby, joining states like North Carolina and Arizona in the attempt to make teaching unappealing as a career and untenable as a way for grown-ups to support a family. Kansas favors the two-pronged technique. With one prong, you strip teachers of job protections and bargaining rights, so that you can fire them at any time for any reason and pay them as little as you like. With the other prong, you strip funding from schools, so that teachers have to accomplish more and more on a budget of $1.95 (and if they can’t get it done, see prong number one).
The result is predictable. Kansas is solidly settled onto the list of Places Teachers Work As Their Very Last Choice.It’s working out great for Missouri; their school districts have teacher recruitment billboards up in Kansas. But in Kansas, there’s a teacher shortage [Peter Greene, “Kansas: Digging a Deeper Hole,” Curmudgucation, 2015.07.29].
Blue Ribboneers, keep gathering all the evidence you want. But the solution to South Dakota’s teacher shortage is right in front of you: look at what Kansas is doing, then do the opposite.