Not So Complicated: Blue Ribbon $8,000 Raise Conceived in June by Teacher-Blogger

Find $75 million in revenue to raise South Dakota teacher pay at least $8,000, from 51st to 39th in the nation—that’s the crux of the plan the Blue Ribbon Task Force on Teachers and Students gave us this month.

It took 26 task force members seven months of public listening sessions and five formal meetings to come up with that plan.

It took Lennox High School librarian and debate coach Michael Larson one blog post in June to come up with the same proposal

Michael Larson: as smart as a committee of 26?
Michael Larson: as smart as a committee of 26? (Photo from SDPB, 2015.03.07)

I think a majority of people would look at it from a level of being in the 70% of the US national average and be closer to all of our neighbors like Nebraska, Iowa, or North Dakota.  South Dakota’s average salary was about $40,000 compared to our nearest neighbor of North Dakota at $48,600 and Nebraska at $49,500.  Those states are at a level of 85% and 86.5% respectively of the national average.  That would mean increasing funding just for teacher’s salaries by an average of $8,000 at least.  That means increasing around $73 million [Michael Larson, “Humble Proposal for Finding Additional Funds for Education,” Taking a Left Turn in South Dakota, 2015.06.14.

…with even more funding detail, $12.7 million in budget cuts to other less productive state agencies.

And Larson didn’t even get an invite, much less a per diem, to make a presentation to the Blue Ribbon panel the way cooperative administrators Dan Guericke and Julie Mathiesen and consultant Richard Ingersoll did to present on ideas that bear only indirectly on teacher pay.

It just goes to show that if you put regular K-12 instructional staff in charge of a project, you’ll get things done much faster than legislators and consultants.

31 Responses to Not So Complicated: Blue Ribbon $8,000 Raise Conceived in June by Teacher-Blogger

  1. Roger Elgersma

    Mr. Larson may just be an average South Dakotan and it took the task force a while to find out where average is.

  2. “…(ask) instructional staff” – Consultation with and validation of those who are directly involved in the work at hand would eliminate so many “false starts” and endless debates in so much of education decision making.

  3. larry kurtz

    Mr. Larson is very smart but it’s important to remember that i came up with a plan to ease South Dakota’s education crisis at least ten years ago.

  4. I don’t think anyone cares who had what plan 1st to satisfy an ego but are more concerned with the end result and sometimes it matters more of who and how that plan was put forth. Michael Larson has put out a well thought out proposal and is professional. Does he “plow the road” using scorched earth tactics? Absolutely not.

  5. Douglas Wiken

    SD schools have more than enough money sitting in reserves to pay teachers more. What the so-called blue ribbon committee report shows is not as interesting as what they did not show. Also, no index. It all looks very amateur and was perhaps put together by some anonymous LRC worker. It appears to be a cover for Dudley Daugaard to raise taxes so more of his co-conspirators can get more money faster.

  6. larry kurtz

    Prescribed fire is just one tool that is being used far too infrequently, that’s for sure.

  7. Travis Wicks

    Douglas, if schools used their reserves to raise teacher pay, how long would that last? Those reserves aren’t a continually replenishing source of income. What would happen then? It’s a short term answer that leaves schools more financially vulnerable to emergency situations such as a fire or tornado destroying a school building.

    I was able to meet Michael at the Sioux Falls share session in June for the BRTF, and I was very impressed with his knowledge and thoughts in the matter. I wish more professionals like him would have been included as members of the task force.

  8. The Blue Ribbon Task Force besides discovering the “obvious” was merely a smoke and mirrors attempt to stir the political narrative on the issue for the 2016 legislature. So that the Governor can use and blame the Task Force for any proposed tax hikes or pay increases.

    Instead of taking this issue head on like a Janklow, Daugaard has decided to set down with the Task Force, like a joint interview, and have the Task Force hold the Governor’s hand through it all.

  9. Donald Pay

    Sure, it’s obvious, but it’s been obvious for decades, including when Janklow was in office. All he did was make it worse. You have to tax to raise the money for teachers’ salaries, and there aren’t many politicians or many citizens willing to admit that and accept it as necessary. Maybe a task force helps some additional folks come to the obvious conclusion.

  10. Lar had a plan 10 years ago, but nobody bit. Mr. Larson was able to get people to put his plan into action. It is likely this year the teachers will petition the legislatures to commission a statue of Mr. Larson to stand next to the Grand Old Man of South Dakota in the statehouse.

  11. DP, don’t get me wrong. I am no Janklow fan. I am not a Janklow apologist like some of my fellow members of the Democratic Party going back to the Spencer tornado. But love him or not, Janklow always seemed to take a crisis head on.

    However, you are right that Janklow’s “one time monies” approach to government in place of adequate and equitable taxation has contributed to this problem. Because his approach to politics which was an art, but a lost art, is never any guarantee that his contemporaneous successors would or will have the same knack… and they don’t.

    I also think that Janklow’s video-conferencing approach to the teacher shortage was innovative, but it also kicked the can down the road and was merely a curative approach. What we now need is a preventative approach.

  12. Douglas Wiken

    Travis Wicks, we are trying to make sense of the report with regard to surpluses. It appears however that at the present over-taxing levies, the $400 or $500 million in reserves would last for several years. How many emergencies do schools have in SD? They all should have insurance in any case. SD reserves are higher than in many states. Also, the SD state law does not mention athletics as an education function. With all the problems with concussions and later mental damage, it would seem that SD schools could stop squandering money on athletics below the 9th grade as is the case in some other states.

  13. Pass a corporate income tax, end video lootery, reduce the number of South Dakota counties to 25, turn Dakota State University into a community college, and adopt my cannabis template: the kurtz solution painted on a thumbnail.

  14. Lanny V Stricherz

    Douglas Wiken, what about the tobacco settlement monies and the dollar tax on smokes and the video lottery money which were all promised for education but then ended up in the general fund? And what about the unconscionable freeze on owner occupied property tax short changing the school districts and counties and then turning around and asking for another penny sales tax to stick it to the lower end of the income brackets who spend every last penny that they earn so are naturally taxed on it.

  15. Mr. Stricherz, I do not know what Mr. Wiken knows but I do remember the tobacco settlement monies being put into trust fund per the South Dakota constitution.

    Constitutional Amendment B establishes two trust funds. The health care trust fund would be established with funds from the intergovernmental transfer fund. Money in this trust fund is dedicated to health care related programs. The education enhancement trust fund would be established with present and future tobacco settlement funds, proceeds from any sale of the right to receive payments from the tobacco settlement, and funds in the youth-at-risk trust fund. Money in this trust fund is dedicated to education enhancement programs.

    I wonder if you are thinking about the concrete plant over there on St. Onge.

  16. Lanny V Stricherz

    I am sure that you are correct Grudz, but I know that there have been several times when funds were promised for education, but ended up in the general fund. The State has passed more of the percentage of funding education onto the school districts and then hamstrung the districts by freezing their ability to collect property tax unless they do an opt out.

  17. Perhaps that has been true, but I know the smokes money went to a trust fund and not the general funds. I’m just sayin…that’s all. And now they’ve stopped everybody from smoking so that pot is drying up.

  18. Donald Pay

    I think it makes sense to make the districts pay down their reserves, but it also makes sense for the state to stop being a deadbeat. These two issues are somewhat intertwined, but the state is mostly responsible for both problems.

    Districts tend to accumulate reserves because the state has had an unpredictable pattern to funding education, and the state has used the school aid formula to deliver property tax relief rather than school aid. In an environment in which the state is an unreliable partner in funding education, it makes some sense for districts to accumulate more reserves than are necessary.

    Surrounding states are contributing much more money to education than the State of South Dakota. The teacher salary gap can be totally explained by the state’s failure to fund education.

  19. Lanny V Stricherz

    You are correct Grudz, but it turns out that only Alaska and North Dakota spend the amount of money that they are supposed to according to the terms of the settlement on tobacco cessation programs.

  20. As Donald notes, big reserves are a result of state stinginess and unreliability. Solve the funding problem at the state level, and lots of other “problems” go away.

    As Larson’s early proposal shows, the state overcomplicated and unnecessarily delayed action on teacher pay. The Blue Ribbon panel unnecessarily complicated the issue with its recommendations on reserve caps, more funding for distance learning and shared services, and an overhaul of the funding formula, all of which the Blue Ribboneers claim are part of an inseparable “package” but which I’m willing to argue are not at all necessary to raising revenue and paying teachers more. Opponents of the plan will now complicate the issue by dragging more issues into the mix (like ending “tenure” and tying teacher evaluations to student tests, as Michael Wyland warns under the other current thread on this topic).

    It’s pretty simple, legislators. We’re running out of good teachers because we aren’t paying them enough. We need to raise their pay. Do what Michael Larson said last June, and do what we’ve been telling you for years: raise teacher pay.

  21. Perhaps with the state’s push for immigrant labor they will import far less expensive teachers from other countries such as Syria or the Philippines.

  22. If the average South Dakota teacher got an $8000 raise and the average superintendent or principal got an extra $12,000 increase like their teacher/administrator friends in Iowa, Minn. N Dak. Nebraska, Wyoming or Montana would they be willing to pay a state income tax? I think not!

  23. Lanny V Stricherz

    You know, the most amazing thing to me is, I pulled some data I had saved on my hard drive up onto my desktop a few weeks ago. I hadn’t looked at it really until a couple of days ago. The last year that I had saved the data was 2011. The city of Sioux Falls had 33 employees making over 100k per year and one newly created job paid over 136,000 and we have no idea why we cannot keep quality teachers. Without including highway patrol, and highway workers and the people who do the physical work at the State level, I would bet there are the same types of huge salaries to be had with no where near the responsibility that we place on those responsible for teaching our young people.

  24. barry freed

    RCPS paying someone $4 million per year to take surplus computers and paying Johnson Controls $150K per year for a contract, then paying when any work is done are only two stupid, so stupid they suggest corruption, wastes of money that would be exposed with a Dynamic website of Purchase Orders.

    When told of the Johnson Control decision, made when the HR couldn’t find anyone to take the Boiler Tech position for $10 per hour, the custodian who told the story looked around the room first, as to speak truth freely in RC can cost you your job.

    To have a gag order on school staff indicates corruption.

    Before raising taxes, how about eliminating some tax free status. Pennington County taxpayers spend $40-50K per year ( five or six, $8K raises) just listing the recipients in the Public Notices. Some of those recipients are nothing more than for profit businesses of bars and country clubs. Also, I belong to a Church and two Fraternal Orders. My share of property taxes for the three would be $10 per year each. Less than I would pay in a sales tax increase. If everybody pays, we all pay less.

  25. Travis Wicks

    Rod, I’d be more than happy to pay a state income tax, even without a raise in my pay, I would just want to make sure education, social services, community mental health services, and Medicaid/Medicare are given the funds they truly need to operate at a level that makes a significant difference in our communities.

    In fact, I wish we had a state income tax that would replace the sales tax on food, clothing, and the enormous increase in wheel taxes (I own two cars, and I pay $80 more a year for my vehicle tags than I did 10 years ago).

  26. Travis,

    When I was a democratic State Senator and a Teaching Principal I always voted for a state income tax. That was in the 1970’s. I never could understand why my fellow teachers were so opposed to an income tax. However the teachers that spoke out the most were financially secure and teaching was not necessary for them, but was something they liked and in most cases they were very good at. I did not mind paying state income tax in Calif. Iowa or Minn. when I was teaching there.

  27. Travis Wicks

    I’m glad to hear that you have supported progressive taxes, Rod! I think that there are more educators like us today than there were 40 years ago, but I can only speak for myself. Thank you for fighting the good fight, even if it was sometimes in vain!

  28. Dang, Lanny—maybe the City of Sioux Falls needs to take over the school district, provide funding, and set salaries. :-)

  29. Rod and Travis, and all…..While carrying a petition to get an income tax on the ballot the last time around, I was amazed at the ignorance of ‘educated’ and ‘upper class’ folk that were adamant against a state income tax but failed to cipher or cogitate on my question of “How much percent of your income do you pay currently on property tax?” And, I could never understand ag folks being so adamant against a fair income tax against their profits. Property taxes HAVE to be paid from income even in drought or no profit years!

  30. Property tax and mill levy’s are supposed to be complicated to keep all people confused and bewildered. The educated and upper class folks know as little as everyone else on this as it was intended. Janklow made an election promise to lower property taxes, he did just that. Then he raised the mill levy and it was made worse. It is all smoke and mirrors unless you have the media black board to beat it into the heads of property owners and those ignorant folks you speak of. When you put a ballot issue in place, you have to have the money it takes to sell it.

  31. Barry F–you are so right on about the RCPS (Rapid City Public Schools) Johnson Control contract. They hammered down on the custodial/maintenance staff and cut wages/benefits making them believe the jobs would be contracted out. Military has gone the same way! Typical Republican.conservative thinking that the ‘market/ is sacrosanct. Little thought is given by schoolboards/superintendants about to ‘institutional memory of conscientious custodians and maintenance workers. Districts pay contractors for time spent analyzing building systems that are old and have been added to many times.