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Democratic Plan Calls for $50K Teacher Pay, No Staff Reductions

South Dakota’s Democratic legislators have responded to the Governor’s plan to raise teacher pay with their own critique and counterproposal. The South Dakota Democrats’ Comprehensive Report on Education Reform, released yesterday alongside the Governor’s State of the State speech, says that the Governor’s endorsement of his Blue Ribbon K-12 panel’s recommendations does not go far enough to solve the teacher shortage.

The Democrats agree with many of the Blue Ribbon recommendations: new teacher-based funding formula, incentives for shared services, expanded online learning, caps on school reserves, mentoring and other support for teachers. The big disagreement rests on three points:

  1. The Governor’s plan is about $17 million short of fully funding the increases in pay and benefits that the Blue Ribboneers’ funding ratios call for.
  2. The Governor’s target teacher-student ratios, which would replace straight student numbers as the basis for the new K-12 funding formula, would increase the statewide student-teacher ratio from 13.9:1 to 14.5:1. To meet those target ratios and achieve the Governor’s salary goals, schools statewide would have to cut 400 teachers, 4.3% of the current K-12 teaching workforce.
  3. The Governor’s target salary of $48,500 still leaves South Dakota at the bottom of the regional pile, paying teachers a lower average salary than every adjoining state.

The Democrats thus propose a plan with the following major details; I line them up side by side with Governor Daugaard’s proposal:

Democrats Daugaard
target teacher salary $50,000 $48,500
salary rank in US 28th 37th
adjoining states with higher salaries 3 6
target teacher-student ratio for schools under 200 11.3 12.5
target teacher-student ratio for schools over 600 14.6 15.0
new funding for K-12 $122,500,000 $86,400,000*
new state sales tax rate 5.0% 4.5%
projected revenue $220,000,000 $107,400,000*
use of extra revenue exempt food from sales tax cut property tax

The Democrats offer a plan that makes South Dakota’s average teaching salary the regional median instead of the regional minimum. $50,000 would be more than 96% of our neighboring states’ average pay. Their target teacher-student ratios allow us to reach that higher average pay without shedding teachers. And while both the Democrats and the Governor rely on the regressive sales tax instead of a bolder, more creative progressive fiscal solution, the Democrats at least ameliorate that regressivity by cutting the tax on food.

The South Dakota Education Association is applauding the Governor’s plan as “very bold.” They should be applauding the Democrats’ plan as even bolder.

But a reader who took my advice and reviewed my analysis of the Blue Ribbon plan before the Governor’s speech yesterday reminds me that neither plan is all that bold considering where we could have been if Governor Daugaard and his predecessor hadn’t beaten down K-12 education throughout this decade. By the math I did in November, if we had simply maintained 3% annual increases in the per-student allocation since 2010 (and the 3.36% annual rate at which we’ve increased per-resident spending indicates we could have managed that), we’d be able to pay teachers $50,505 right now under the Blue Ribbon funding formula.

So really, neither our Republican Governor nor our Democratic legislators are as bold as slow, steady investment in K-12 education would have been. Both the Blue Ribbon and Democratic proposals are “bold” only in the way that an alcoholic making it through his first day of sobriety in thirty years is “bold.” Either plan would simply get as back to the normal K-12 functionality that healthy states enjoy.

*Update 12:26 CST: I have updated these revenue figures based on information reported by Kealey Bultena on SDPB Dakota Midday today. The Governor’s plan calls for $40 million in property tax relief, leaving $67 million from the additional sales tax for K-12 education. The Governor gets another $19 million for teachers salaries by moving pension levies into the general fund.


  1. leslie 2016-01-13 07:55

    Nothin bold about alcoholism…bold as a bull in a china …. but that extra money goes to cronys, not our children. Crony children are covered

  2. jake 2016-01-13 12:44

    Cory, your comparison of the proposal being ‘bold’ to an alcoholic reminds me so much of our long Republican hold on power in SD. Never really tackle a problem with any $$$ in timely fashion. Always postpone, deny, obfuscate while pretending frugality. Listening to Daugard now defending his sales tax proposal on PBS now he is still advocating the benefits of someone else paying for our needs–like tourists. Like expanding Medicaid ONLY if the Feds pay the ENTIRE bill!! (Had his party in power expanded it 3 yrs ago, how much of other out-of-state (Federal) money would have been pured into SD hands)??? MILLIONS…

  3. leslie 2016-01-13 20:51

    Impressive Of The Dem Legislators And/or Sddp.

    Btw is sdea Not A public Union Perhaps Subject To Scotus?

  4. leslie 2016-01-13 21:14

    Hundreds of millions. Sorry If I AM REPETITIVE JAKE. Smart Phone Capitalization :(

  5. caheidelberger Post author | 2016-01-14 06:28

    Leslie, the coming SCOTUS ruling on Freidrichs v. CTA wouldn’t affect SDEA practices right now: SDEA cannot compel payment of membership dues. SDEA would be able to due that under the fair-share union dues initiative proposed by the heavy-equipment operators union, but a SCOTUS ruling against the public unions in Friedrichs would appear to moot that initiative, even if it makes the ballot and passes muster with voters.

  6. Jackie Jessop Rising 2016-01-14 10:53

    My prediction (though I hope I am wrong):

    An increase, roughly $3000, in STARTING Salaries for teachers will be supported and passed. Teachers who have been teaching for 5 years or more will NOT see an increase. Our governor and his party will brag how they raised teacher pay in the state of South Dakota.

    So, young teachers, don’t get excited about the increase, as it is the only significant increase you will see in your career if you stay in South Dakota.

  7. Paladn 2016-01-14 14:26

    Has anyone checked SD statutes to see if the term “teacher” includes school administrators? I would think that SDEA or other persons may want to make sure that the wording of any proposed legislation, should it hit the floor, be correctly worded.

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