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Daugaard Acknowledges His Teacher Pay Plan Cuts 400 Jobs

The Democratic plan to raise South Dakota teacher pay is superior to Governor Dennis Daugaard’s plan for three main reasons:

  1. The Democratic plan raises teacher pay to the regional median; the Governor’s plan leaves us at the bottom of the region.
  2. The Democratic plan lessens the regressive impact of increased sales tax by exempting food; the Governor’s plan increases sales tax without any such relief against regressivity.
  3. The Democratic plan provides funding to reach its target average statewide pay rate of $50,000 for all 9,362 teachers currently working for our K-12 students; the Governor’s plan reaches its target average of $48,500 by assuming that the state would get rid of 400 teachers.

Governor Daugaard steps forward to emphasize that third point:

The state would set a target salary and target student-teacher ratio for each school district. Under a “perfect alignment,” the state would have to lose about 400 teachers, Daugaard said in an interview Tuesday with Argus Leader Media.

“We looked at every school district and said here’s your ideal ratio,” Daugaard said. “To get everybody to that ideal ratio, we’d need to have about 400 fewer teachers” [Patrick Anderson, “Daugaard: State Has Too Many Teachers,” that Sioux Falls paper, 2016.01.26].

Governor Daugaard’s declaration that South Dakota has 400 teachers too many seems to run counter to the  basic assumption his Blue Ribbon K-12 panel staked out at the beginning of the deliberations that produced the Governor’s plan: South Dakota teachers are doing a good job. The Blue Ribbon panel underscored this assumption with their conclusion in their final report that South Dakota ought to keep its student-to-teacher ratio where it is. To say we need to shed 400 teachers says that those 400 teachers are not doing a good job, at least not a good enough job to merit the target average salary we need to compete with surrounding states for teacher applicants.

Remarkably, the South Dakota Education Association, the union charged with protecting teachers’ jobs, still appears not to have noticed that the Democrats are offering a better teacher pay plan that costs no teachers their jobs. Instead, SDEA defends the Governor’s plan:

The president of South Dakota’s teachers union supports the plan, and is careful to point out there’s nothing that forces districts to eliminate jobs.

“There is no intent in the plan for districts to cut teachers,” said Mary McCorkle, president of the South Dakota Education Association [Anderson, 2016.01.26].

Squinting at the plan text (oh, wait, we can’t, because we still don’t have a bill, just the accounts in the press and the non-binding promises in the State of the State speech) and letting one’s eyes go out of focus, one might be able to cling to McCorkle’s conclusion. But the Governor’s numbers and his own words about “efficiency” make clear that his intent is to reach a higher target teacher salary by cutting 400 teachers somewhere in South Dakota.

Daugaard said there are more teachers per student in South Dakota than the national average, which plays into why each teacher is paid less. Some of that he attributed to South Dakota’s rural schools, which have small classrooms.

While many school districts already meet the suggested staffing ratios, some don’t. Some school districts perhaps haven’t adjusted their staff as student enrollment has decreased, and could operate more efficiently, according to the governor. He said the suggested ratios will encourage schools to take a closer look at that.

“This way, having a target ratio will make school board members more attuned to what is an expected efficiency level,” Daugaard said. “Prior to that, I don’t know that they really had any benchmark against which they could judge themselves” [Candy DenOuden, “Governor Optimistic About Teacher Salary Proposal,” Mitchell Daily Republic, 2016.01.27].

I’m not getting rid of any teachers. I’m just making a suggestion, right, Rocco?

Governor Daugaard’s assertion that our lower-than-average student-teacher ratio explains some of our lower teacher pay has dubious value in the debate about establishing regionally competitive teacher salaries. Yes, 2014 NEA data (page 17, Table C-6) show that the national K-12 student teacher ratio was 15.9, while in South Dakota it’s 13.8. But compare us to our neighbors:

State K-12 Student-Teacher Ratio (2014) Average Teacher Salary (2014)
Minnesota 15.6 $54,752
Iowa 14.3 $52,032
South Dakota 13.8 $40,023
Montana 13.3 $49,893
Nebraska 13.0 $49,539
Wyoming 12.4 $56,583
North Dakota 12.1 $48,666

If I adopted Governor Daugaard’s “efficiency” euphemism, I’d conclude that Montana, Nebraska, Wyoming, and North Dakota schools are less efficient than South Dakota’s but still manage to pay their teachers 22% to 41% more than we do. Explain that, Dennis.

This discussion may be moot, since House Majority Leader Brian Gosch (R-32/Rapid City) says the Governor’s plan won’t pass:

Majority Leader Brian Gosch told The Associated Press that a group of Republicans may have a rough contingency plan by Friday. It’s “prudent” to have an alternative ready if the governor’s plan is defeated, he said.

“I don’t want to get caught behind the eight ball and scramble if the plan falls apart raising taxes,” said Gosch, who opposes the half-cent increase. “I think it’s going to fail, and then you’ve got an alternative plan in place” [James Nord, “House GOP Leader Looking for Alternate Teacher Pay Plan,”AP via Mitchell Daily Republic, 2016.01.25].

I’m going put on my optimist’s hat and assume Rep. Gosch is just posturing for negotiating purposes so he can get some gravy in the final teacher pay bill for himself, like maybe an 85-mile-per-hour speed limit. Rep. Gosch’s pessimistic statement must just be face-saving electoral theater, because the Republican Majority Leader wouldn’t really step out and undercut his Republican Governor before the Governor has even put his plan into writing, would he?

Maybe Rep. Gosch means what he says. Maybe the votes just aren’t there for the Governor’s plan. Maybe any plan to raise teacher pay will go too far for some legislators. But maybe other legislators are sitting out on the Governor’s plan because it doesn’t go far enough to raise wages for all of our teachers and keep opportunities for all of our kids.

The Democratic plan goes that far. The Democratic plan preserves those opportunities. Dems, SDEA, Blue Ribboneers, before you surrender to Gosch’s pessimistic posturing, maybe you should bring some swagger of your own to the table and give the superior $50K/5%/all-hands-on-deck Democratic plan a hard pitch to the public, the press, and the Legislature.


  1. Paul Seamans 2016-01-27

    The legislature for years has desired to consolidate small schools but just hasn’t had the nads to do that. Doing away with 400 teachers may help in that goal. I guess that I am assuming that a lot of these 400 jobs would be from the small schools.

  2. Curt 2016-01-27

    Yep, we’re still waiting for the Bill to drop. 38-day Session and they’re still holding onto the most significant piece of legislation.

  3. Madman 2016-01-27

    There too busy filing bills that will be challenged and overturned, I guess the extra cash they will drum up in the sales tax plan to increase teacher pay can go to ELF.

    The student to teacher ratio in this state is something that was a shining star. One of the few things the Department of Education has managed not to sell off. If that cut would have happened in 2014 based on the data our enrolled ratio would be 14.4 which would move us from 36th in student to teacher ration, to 32nd. At least we are moving up in one category.

    This plan would also drop out total instructional staff in the state to under 9,000. I guess dropping to 47th isn’t a big deal.

    Also the ADA (average daily attendance) student per teacher ratio is pretty big. This number is a realistic measurement of how our school’s district our doing in getting the students to school. South Dakota is 34th at 13.3 (our enrolled ADA is 13.8). Minnesota is 27th at 14.2 (their enrolled ADA is 15.6) Iowa is 38th at 12.5 (their enrolled ADA is 14.3).

    You can draw the argument that larger enrolled class sizes do not mean larger ADA numbers. Looking at South Dakota’s neighbors larger ADA’s have resulted in a full student drop off if not more. Cutting staff usually means cutting those extra programs that students want to attend such as Ag, shop, music, foreign languages, higher level math, higher level science, etc.

    If you truly care about education that last thing you would propose is eliminating jobs. Of course with the traditional Republican spin, the cutting of the jobs isn’t because the state is reducing money but instead their increasing pay but putting out these ratios to justify it. This puts teachers vs school administration in dealing with the fall out of who gets cut and which programs end. Which results in the public being upset at the school for cutting the Ag program instead of being angry at their state legislature and government who they voted for and will probably vote again.

    Nice tactic.

  4. Mark Winegar 2016-01-27

    I could not support a program designed to shore up a teacher shortage by letting teachers go. There is no logic in that. We need more qualified teachers and we must compete for them.

  5. 96Tears 2016-01-27

    What’s his plan for next year? Cut 400 more?

    So disappointing. Governor Dilbert Daugaard’s motto for public schools must be: “The beatings will continue until morale improves.” It’s as if he does not read newspapers or watch KELO. The most consistent message tapping from White Rock to Igloo is teachers are leaving the state, schools can’t find enough teachers to fill positions and the integrity of South Dakota’s schools is at risk because the state is a deadbeat on funding public education.

    Is it any wonder school districts stockpile cash into rainy day accounts when their partner in governance is this pack of clowns in Pierre?

    The spineless governors and legislatures in recent decades have given school districts absolutely no proof they can be trusted to be wise stewards of an effective public education system.

  6. clcjm 2016-01-27

    I had already picked up on this terrible strategy! Should have known there would be a hidden subversive agenda! Republicans never offer anything without taking something even bigger and more harmful than the original problem! With them you always should look a gift horse in the mouth!
    And in this case it’s another way to destroy the small schools and the communities that they are located in! I grew up near Doland and lived in Redfield for about 30 years. I have seen how many small town schools have closed in northeastern SD and the devastating effects that has had on those communities! Some have disappeared! I thought DD wanted economic growth in SD. How do you achieve that when you’re driving people away?!?

  7. jake 2016-01-27

    It’s just more “Don’t go athinkin’ outside the box , Fred’; just change things a little and put more scotch tape on the top of the box so nothin’ new gets in!

  8. Donald Pay 2016-01-27

    Rather than deal with the consolidation issue in an honest way, Daugaard goes about it in a slimy, backhanded way that provides the maximum amount of damage to student learning. Yup, it’s definitely the Republican way.

  9. caheidelberger Post author | 2016-01-27

    Donald, did we scare him away from courageous stuff with our referral of his merit-pay/death-to-SDEA plan, HB 1234, in 2012? Or should we still look at the glass as half-full and acknowledge the courage it takes to propose any substantial teacher pay increase?

  10. John 2016-01-27

    Yes, SD has “teacher’ bloat – but by far the larger bloat per student is that of administrators & staff. Fix first things first.

  11. Donald Pay 2016-01-27


    I give Daugaard some credit for at least admitting there is a problem, and proposing a solution. He is the first Governor who did one of these education “studies” and actually did more than shelve it.

    The fact that leaders have shoved these problems under the rug for so long means they are almost impossible to solve. There’s an old saying that SD legislators used to say all the time when they wanted to kill a bill: “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” So, state leaders don’t think the education system is broken because, teachers and districts have been able to put patches here and there throughout two generations, and make do. But there comes a point when all you got is patches and the patches don’t work anymore, and at that point the problems are so big and so bad that you can’t fix it.

    Or, at least, you can’t fix it in the context of doing the SD Republican thing: not taxing the wealthy. So, Daugaard would rather steal the money from the education of kids in small towns and increase the taxes on the poor and middle class, rather than tax the wealthiest 20 percent.

  12. Madman 2016-01-27

    Until something has been passed by the legislature, I’m not looking at giving a gold star for bringing up a subject that has reached its boiling point. Have we reached a point that we give credit to someone for just talking about the topic. I know that its nice that the governor has acknowledged that there’s a problem, but rather having this and the other real problems in the state being discussed the legislature is too busy dealing with bicycling, modern electronic filing, trying to overturn Roe vs Wade, making the poor pee in cups, making it easier to buy a candidacy, etc.

    Glad to see going into the election that the legislature is playing it safe by using the same old bills and legislation they have done for 30+ years. Present a bunch of ridiculous bills that eventually get defeated while sliding things that impact the state into other obscure or last minute bills.

  13. Porter Lansing 2016-01-27

    Take to the streets, teachers. This begging for a raise is undignified Union behavior. The people will be on your side if you force them to make a choice. Pay your kid’s teachers or support the Republican greed agenda. Trust in the people to do the right thing … if you go door to door and get in their grill. With a smile, of course.

  14. grudznick 2016-01-27

    Disband the union or eat Ramen spaghetti. The fatcat administrators have led you astray.

  15. Noddy Holder 2016-01-29

    What’s the easiest way for a Republican to increase workers’ average wages? Reduce the number of employees.

  16. caheidelberger Post author | 2016-01-30

    Donald, I do give the Governor credit for going farther than any of his predecessors over the last three decades in admitting that South Dakota shorts its teachers and must not remain last in the nation in teacher pay. But that credit doesn’t change the fact that, even after making such remarkable admissions, his policy solution still has serious shortcomings.

    We still don’t have a bill, but the Governor has posted this PDF memo detailing his plan to the Blue Ribbon website. Of the funding formula we’re discussing here, the memo explains, “Although this proposal is not a mandate, the funding formula will create an expectation. The state will expect significant movement towards the target statewide average salary and any school districts that lag behind the target salary must account for the difference.”

    Not a mandate, but an expectation. The Governor won’t force anyone to fire teachers, but if certain districts don’t contribute toward that expected policy goal, they’ll get a stern look and have to answer to “robust discussion” about why they aren’t doing what the Governor expects.

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