Bob Mercer notes that the South Dakota Teacher Compensation Review Board, the offspring of the 2015 Blue Ribbon Teacher Pay panel, approved the final draft of its 2018 report last week. The final draft (posted here by Mercer) makes three noteworthy changes from the original draft (posted by the state here):
- Most significantly, Mercer notices that the final draft backs away from putting a specific dollar figure—”approximately $4,500—on how much South Dakota still needs to raise teacher pay. Apparently no one wants to saddle the Legislature or the next governor with any sort of specific, easily accountable benchmark… although both versions give future policymakers the convenient goal of striving rather than definitively reaching.
- The final draft strikes the ending language about recognizing other budget challenges and priorities, suggesting that the board realized such soft-pedaling goes without saying and that the Teacher Compensation Review Board’s docket consists of dealing with teacher pay, not addressing the entire budget picture (save that for Senator Nesiba and Joint Appropriations).
- The final report breaks the closing two paragraphs into bullet points for low-level readers in the Legislature.
Yet in both documents, the review board members—Senators Troy Heinert, Jim Bolin, and Deb Soholt; Representatives Julie Bartling, Tom Holmes, and David Lust; and Aberdeen superintendent Becky Guffin, Pierre superintendent Kelly Glodt, and Governor Daugaard’s chief of staff Tony Venhuizen—come to the same conclusions that I’ve offered on the District 3 Senate campaign trail and on this blog since the Blue Ribbon teacher pay plan launched: South Dakota has to put more money toward teacher pay to offer regionally competitive salaries.
The Board discussed all of these reports at its June meeting, and continued the discussion at its August meeting. It is clear from the data that South Dakota has made significant strides in teacher pay as a result of the Blue Ribbon legislation, and that the state’s teacher salaries are more competitive than they were prior. However, South Dakota still has one of the lowest average teacher salaries in the nation and, even when adjusted for cost of living, is lower than surrounding states.
Based on those discussions, the Board recommends that, in order to remain competitive with surrounding states, South Dakota strive over time to increase its average teacher salaries by approximately $4,500, beyond annual inflationary increases, with the goal of reaching the middle of the rankings among surrounding states, when adjusted for regional price parities. The Board also recognizes that other recipients of state funding face similar challenges, and that the Governor and Legislators have to balance these budget priorities within available funding resources.
The Board discussed all of these reports at its June meeting, and continued the discussion at its August
In advancing this regional competitiveness objective, the board doesn’t say anything about respecting teachers, paying them what they are worth, or making reparations for South Dakota’s thirty years of salary neglect and denied earning power. There is no radical call for economic justice, only a simple free-market claim that we need to remain “market-competitive.” That’s the only language Pierre policymakers speak, so we roll with it.
In its final draft, the Republican-dominated teacher compensation board also endorses the economic argument that I’ve offered about South Dakota teacher pay for years: factoring in cost of living and local taxes still leaves South Dakota teachers significantly behind their colleagues in adjoining states in take-home purchasing power. Their numbers still differ from mine:
|2017 salary||st/loc tax burden||2017 sal after tax||2017 COL||COL adjust|
The state and I still disagree about how far from the bottom we are, but we come to the same conclusion: South Dakota continues to short its teachers compared to the compensation other states can offer. The Teacher Compensation Review Board’s figures support my long-standing analysis and advocacy: we need to elect legislators who view the 2016 teacher pay raise as a useful first step, not an excuse for legislators to pat themselves on the back and go back to sleep for another thirty years.