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State Teacher Pay Board Agrees with Liberal Blog: SD Still Shorts Teachers

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):

  1. 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.
  2. 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).
  3. 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
meeting, and makes the following findings:

  • The data demonstrates that South Dakota has made significant strides in teacher pay as a result of the Blue Ribbon legislation.
  • This progress is due to the changes in the funding formula, and the increase in funding, that were a part of the Blue Ribbon legislation.
  • South Dakota’s teacher salaries are now more regionally competitive. 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 most surrounding states.
  • In order to remain market-competitive, South Dakota should maintain and strive to improve its national ranking in average teacher salaries and to reach or exceed the median of surrounding states, when adjusted for regional price parities.

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:

Cory’s analysis, 2018.04.25 based on Wallet Hub state/local tax survey and C2ER cost-of-living figures:

2017 salary st/loc tax burden 2017 sal after tax 2017 COL COL adjust
Iowa $55,647 9.32% $50,461 91.3 $55,269
Minnesota $57,346 10.37% $51,399 99.7 $51,554
Montana $51,422 7.64% $47,493 100.4 $47,304
Nebraska $52,338 9.17% $47,539 92.9 $51,172
North Dakota $52,968 8.69% $48,365 99.7 $48,511
South Dakota $46,979 7.22% $43,587 99.5 $43,806
Wyoming $58,187 8.03% $53,515 95.6 $55,978

State’s figures, approved 2018.08.29:

South Dakota Teacher Compensation Review Board, 2018 report, approved 2018.08.29, p. 5.
South Dakota Teacher Compensation Review Board, 2018 report, approved 2018.08.29, p. 5.

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.


  1. grudznick 2018-09-03 09:48

    Strive away but the real fear in the legislatures where there is sympathy for the teachers is that the continual whining will have that half-penny from me just for you ripped away.

  2. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2018-09-03 09:57

    So Grudz, are you saying Jim Bolin and Tony Venhuizen were whining when they signed off on this report last week?

  3. grudznick 2018-09-03 10:37

    I’ll repeat my meaning using more simple words.

    If the whining of teachers continues, despite the special tax on everybody that only goes to one small segment of our population, there will be those in the legislatures who will want to take the tax increase back and then the schools can pay whatever they want to the teachers but they will have less money from us taxpayers to do so.

    Why are teachers the whiniest group out there?

  4. mike from iowa 2018-09-03 11:09

    Why are teachers the whiniest group out there?

    Not even close, Grudzilla. The 2 year old in the WH beats teachers and everyone else for whiniest whiner ever, tiny hands down.

    Spoiled rotten right wing nut job. Yer party has loads of them types.

  5. Porter Lansing 2018-09-03 11:41

    Boy, the right wing kooks just can’t handle a day set aside for America’s workers. You’re right Grudzie. It’s time to stop complaining and TIME TO STRIKE!! Like the 2018 statewide teacher strikes in West Virginia, Oklahoma and Arizona. Also smaller-scale protests by school staff in Kentucky, North Carolina, Colorado and a school bus driver strike in Georgia. Additionally, adjunct professors at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, Virginia protested over pay.
    ~ The teachers must stand as a group and demand what they’re due, or just let the little ones remain stupid. That’s where Republicans come from, anyway.

  6. CraigSk 2018-09-03 12:31

    Teachers are not the “whiniest’ group…they are the only group of state employees that have finally found their voice. Most SD state employees, ie. civil service employees (CSE) have come to expect low pay and just accept that is the way it is in this state. They are just hoping to make it to retirement when they can finally use those “great” benefits everyone talks about. It is too bad in this state that it is not only SD State employees who are so poorly compensated for their work. Most employees working in SD are highly under compensated. It is easier to pay everyone poorly than just one group, that is what the state of South Dakota has learned. When everyone is poorly paid it is harder to complain. Ones employment options in South Dakota are to leave one poorly paid job for one only slightly better.
    This state loves its school bag give ways, food pantry’s, free banquet meals, and other forms of donating to the poor. If the employers of this state start paying living wage or better, how can we feel good by giving free stuff to those that need it? I would love to see the day when the upper levels stopped increasing their salaries until they bring up those employees salaries that actually do the work and make companies success possible….but I am am optimistic dreamer.

  7. Donald Pay 2018-09-03 15:44

    Grudz has a point, even though he’s definitely in competition for the whiniest person who posts here. The politics of resentment, which Grudz plays into, is real.

    Grudz’ mind is a little cloudy these days, but let me remind him that neither Cory nor I nor many people who commented on this blot thought the Daugaard measure was the best solution to low teacher pay. It was a half measure, a one year bump with little follow through. It was never going to solve the problem. They needed a far larger revenue source to do that. It was a start that stopped pretty abruptly. You can call it whining, but it’s simply pointing out the facts.

    A far better way to deal with this was how Mickelson dealt with the increase in state worker salaries in the 1980s. It may have been Janklow that started it out. Grudz probably remembers. It was a decade-long commitment to a salary schedule and raises that made sense and that most everyone bought into. During that time frame there was enough revenue growth to make good on the commitment, though a couple years had lower than expected boosts.

    With the revenue from the new sales tax being proposed on on-line sales there is a new revenue source to make some headway on this issue. Pointing that fact out is not whining.

  8. mike from iowa 2018-09-03 15:59

    Hard working, underpaid, disrespected teachers want decent pay and they are accused of whining. Koch bros whine they pay too much in taxes and wingnuts jump to service them at blinding speed. Then they decide they can’t pay teachers more because of budget constraints due to servicing the wealthy.

    The bottom squeak gets ignored. The higher squeak gets bathed in K-Y jelly for a royal rubdown.

  9. RJ 2018-09-03 16:14

    To Grudz and any others in this state that think teachers are “whiny”. My mom has been an educator for over 40 years. She has a Masters degree. She leaves for work at 530am and leaves school at 430pm. For many years she has worked a second job in retail, as many teachers in South Dakota have to do in order to to support themselves and their families. A little perspective. In my second year as a nurse, I was making more then my more educated mother. Teaching is one of the most challenging and emotionally draining jobs out there and the state of SD year after year takes big dumps on them and then there are people like you Grudz who call them whiny when they ask to be paid fairly for their work Your words and gross underestimation of the importance of teachers and education is a slap in the face to my mom and every other teacher trying to make the world better. Just out of curiosity, Grudz..what do you do for a living?

  10. grudznick 2018-09-03 17:45

    I herd goats, Mr. RJ

  11. RJ 2018-09-03 17:48

    It’s Ms now..I like goats. Not in a weird way

  12. Jenny 2018-09-03 18:31

    Don’t let grudzilla get to you, RJ and Craig. He’s just an ornery old fart that needs a nap during the day.

  13. Porter Lansing 2018-09-03 18:55

    Hi, Ms RJ … Grudzie is a retired fellow who will engage you in a semi-intellectual discussion and when you best him (which you will, easily) he’ll claim that he, “Got your goat.” He’s a bit delusional. In fact, I’ve gotten his goat so many times I had to return his goats due to high feed expense. He won’t admit it. Welcome to the blog. :0)

  14. OldSarg 2018-09-03 19:05

    OMG!!! “I herd goats, Mr. RJ”!!!!!!! Too good, to exact, too much of a lesson!!!!

    Very good.

  15. OldSarg 2018-09-03 19:12

    I have to add more: being a teacher is not the “great sacrifice” of all time. It is a job people choose to do. hey do not have to be a teacher. It is a choice just as every job is a choice. No one makes someone be a teacher. My wife is a teacher. She gives a lot of her time to prepare before doing her actual job but so do thousands of other professions. Police Officers in rural communities work around the clock. grudznick raises goats. Goats are 24/7. Farming is 24/7. There are hundreds of jobs that take more time than when you are actually “on the job”. Own a business, be responsible for your own income, pay your own bills, do you won taxes and worry about the the income of “your employees”. Teachers do not have to deal with that. Teacher Preacher Pumpkin Eater. I’m sure Portly will find this somehow racist. . .

  16. owen reitzel 2018-09-03 19:24

    but what jobs are as important that pay less OS? My is a teacher and my dad was one as well. They knew what they were getting into, but that doesn’t mean they can’t fight for better pay.

  17. mike from iowa 2018-09-03 20:04

    Ms RJ, meet OldSovietTrollSlanderknobberbobber. Don’t shake hands with him. Never fear, you will soon be attacked as being stoopid or useless or whatever OS conjures up. He plays the victim real easy if you say anything he can take personally. BTW, to listen to him he has been everywhere and done everything there is to do. Absolutely do not tell him where you live or tell him your real name.

  18. grudznick 2018-09-03 20:30

    Mr. OldSarg is righter than right. People choose their professions. If you are willing to teach for teacher pay, then by all means, be a teacher. If you want to lawyer, be a lawyer. If you want to sell real estate for millions of dollars, start as an insurance man. The point is, don’t whine about your own choices.

    Mr. Reitzel, the market drives the salaries. This is why the John Taco fellow makes less than the DQ fellow. It’s the market.

  19. o 2018-09-03 20:30

    I suppose we all have to choose a side to have disdain for: the whining teachers who hold policymakers’ feet to the flames to fulfill their Constitutionally obligated mandate so that there can be a future for the state, or grudznick (and those like him) who have decided the fate and prospects of the state of SD should end with him.

    As to the job being a calling, not that bad . . ., all has been asked and answered. Nationally lowest pay resulted in SD classrooms with no teachers, paying better has reversed that trend. It takes competitive salary to get teachers; it takes teachers to provide opportunity for our students.

    As to the value of police, when was the last time OldSarge (and his ilk) demanded his taxes go up to support that valuable work? Or was OldSarge going to list more public employees he also would underpay into extinction?

  20. grudznick 2018-09-03 20:48

    There are seven indisputable levels of teachers, Mr. o. If the South Dakotan’s had gone in with the old where the best teachers got paid more than the not as good teachers, those like grudznick would have less issue with the teacher whining. Because the good ones would stop whining and the bad ones would get fingers pointed at them and their names posted on a web blog and they would have to step up or shut up.

  21. OldSarg 2018-09-03 20:53

    Mike from idiocy: I also wrestled a bear.

  22. RJ 2018-09-03 20:56

    Grudz, you opened the door on a ton of goat jokes, but I honestly feel sorry for you and OS. Porter and Mike..appreciate you guys.

  23. grudznick 2018-09-03 21:04

    Thank you, Ms. RJ. You seem really sweet.

    And I, too, feel sorry for Mr. OldSarg, however he quaffs muffins with marmalade jam faster than most any fellow you have ever seen at a civilized breakfast, so he does have that going for him.

  24. OldSarg 2018-09-03 21:37

    Really? “he quaffs muffins with marmalade jam faster than most any fellow”?

    Hey, once you said you raised goats I was all behind listening to you. Teacher pay, to much self pity. . .

    “he quaffs muffins with marmalade jam faster than most any fellow” I’m going to steal that. I don’t know when in hell I’d ever use it but I like it.

  25. OldSarg 2018-09-03 21:49

    o~ If a cop wants to work for what it pays I say let him.

  26. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2018-09-03 21:56

    Grudz, I heard your words the first time. I think you missed my point. I didn’t mention a single teacher “whining” or expressing an opinion about teacher pay in any other tone. There’s not a single teacher on that Teacher Compensation Review Board (hey, why not?).

    I thus feel compelled to repeat my question: are you saying that Bolin, Venhuizen, et al. are whining in issuing this report on the need to raise teacher pay? Does the willingness of the Republicans on this commission to agree to the goal of raising teacher pay to the regional median signal that the sales tax for teacher pay is more secure than you warn and that teachers will find more receptive lawmakers than you think when they advocate for continued progress toward the Blue Ribbon goals?

  27. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2018-09-03 22:05

    In mentioning our constitutional obligation to buttress the morality and intelligence of the people with a general and uniform system of public schools wherein tuition shall be without charge, and equally open to all, O reminds that the Teacher Compensation Review Board apparently haggled not one bit over the moral worth of teachers. Grudz’s and OldSarg’s hackneyed efforts to run teachers down matter not one whit. The TCRB takes the need for qualified, talented teachers as a given. The TCRB takes market forces as a given. The TCRB recognizes that if we pay the lowest wages or even the second-lowest wages in the region, we will not recruit the same proportion of top pedagogical talent as will our neighboring states, who manage to offer teachers more purchasing power than we do for the same work, whatever its merits, challenges, or perceived cushiness.

    Thus, TCRB recognizes that we need to raise teacher pay. TCRB reaches that conclusion with none of the mudslinging that teacher-haters bring up. It doesn’t matter if you love teachers or hate ’em. We need ’em, says TCRB, and we gotta pay ’em more to get ’em.

    So, now that TCRB has established that constitutional policy imperative, how do we raise the money?

  28. RJ 2018-09-03 22:07

    Cory, could you elaborate on Jim Bolin’s role? Is he on the teacher comp board? Thank you!

  29. Greg 2018-09-03 22:08

    Some of the lowest paid teachers in the state teach in a school that have big reserves built up. My local district has 155 students and has almost 2 million in reserves. If there another increase in sales tax it will not increase teacher pay in all schools rather more money for sports programs and coaching pay increases.

  30. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2018-09-03 22:17

    Bolin is on the TCRB. They keep picking him as chair. He was a teacher, but he’s not now.

  31. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2018-09-03 22:23

    Greg takes my bait (don’t worry—it’s good bait, topical bait!) and suggests we fund the TCRB-approved teacher pay increases by diverting money from sports.

    I offer pessimism: last time I checked, sports totaled only a low-single-digit percentage of school budgets. Diverting money from sports would help some, but I doubt it would produce all the cash we need to reach the TCRB goal.

    Keep in mind: NEA estimates South Dakota has 9,600 teachers. TCRB said $4,500 would get us to regional median; my figures above suggest it would take $6,000. Multiply those raises by the teacher count, and we need $43 million to $58 million to reach median.

    Are South Dakota’s K-12 public schools spending $43 million on sports?

  32. RJ 2018-09-03 22:28

    I had Jim as a hs history teacher. My parents mentioned he was ultra conservative, so I was just curious. He also coached junior high basketball…he told us to stay safe and sober on the weekends and told us to throw our butts into people when they were driving the lane on O. He and I would disagree greatly now.

  33. o 2018-09-04 08:13

    grudznick, first it is not “indisputable” that there are seven levels of teachers. The state looking at best practices ( has adopted a four-level scale that looks to lift all teachers to the highest level of teaching. Again that is the problem with your argument – you see what is and complain; you look to stagnate; I see what is and look to lift up, to improve.

  34. mike from iowa 2018-09-04 08:29

    2018-09-03 at 20:53

    Mike from idiocy: I also wrestled a bear.

    You lie frequently, as well.

    ps I am not interested in what you and yer wife do in the privacy of yer own cave.

  35. OldSarg 2018-09-04 08:36

    “listen to him he has been everywhere and done everything there is to do”~ mike form idiocy

    I was just trying to reinforce your earlier post and it’s true. 440 lb Black Bear. A sow. It was a draw. The bear walked away for a grape soda. It’s been a good life.

  36. Greg 2018-09-04 09:00

    Cory, my point is that school boards at some schools have huge reserves and will not use them to raise teacher pay. Maintaining excessive reserves is not fair to taxpayers. Why do we want millions of dollars of money that does nothing for education sitting there.Maintaining reserves is important to a certain extent but building them too high and not paying teachers a competitive wage makes no sense. Cory, there is too many people that worry about the football teams record and don’t look at the education they are providing.

  37. Donald Pay 2018-09-04 09:18

    Greg’s point about excessive reserves is one that has been raised historically. It was a particular sticking point for Gov. Janklow, who held increases in state aid hostage in his effort to brow beat districts with large pots of money. Rapid City had a pretty hefty reserve in the early 90s but it got spent down in the first 5 years of state funding formula changes made in the 1990s. I thought Janklow solved that issue through clawbacks of excessive reserves, and I wonder if the most recent change in the aid formula made this issue pop up again . I can see where small districts might need a bigger reserve by percentage than a larger district, but rat-holing money meant for students and teachers is a kind of theft. It was one issue on education funding that I agreed with Janklow.

  38. jerry 2018-09-04 09:22

    Greg has a good point especially when thinking of student debt that many many of these teachers are paying back, or trying to. From the New York Times

    “Consider the official statistics: Of borrowers who started repaying in 2012, just over 10 percent had defaulted three years later. That’s not too bad — but it’s not the whole story. Federal data never before released shows that the default rate continued climbing to 16 percent over the next two years, after official tracking ended, meaning more than 841,000 borrowers were in default. Nearly as many were severely delinquent or not repaying their loans (for reasons besides going back to school or being in the military). The share of students facing serious struggles rose to 30 percent over all.” 23 Billion in loans and 9 Billion in Default. That is a lot of default that grows more each day.

    Not only is this unfair to taxpayers of the district, it is unfair to teachers and to tax payers nationally as well.

  39. o 2018-09-04 09:34

    Greg, I think most all voters agree that although a reasonable reserve is prudent, taxes are to be spend on education — not savings. So my question is why do districts continue to elect school board members who do this?

  40. Greg 2018-09-04 12:28

    o, that is a very good question.In a small school district like ours you seldom have a school election. Many times people that are very qualified to be on a school board will not run because they run a business. In a small school district and if you are on a board that makes a controversial decision your business will be boycotted forever. In my experiences of being on a school board Administrators kinda took care of themselves far better than teachers. A 3% raise on a $85000.00 salary sure is a lot more than a3% raise on $40,000.00 salary. At the end of the day school board members are highly influenced by Administration.

  41. Caroline 2018-09-04 12:43

    School boards build reserves out of fear, especially small schools. First of all, schools get money for salaries based on student population- a given amount per student. If two or three families move out of the district and the kindergarten class is smaller than last year’s senior class the incoming dollars shrink rapidly. Then there is always the fear that the legislature will not increase the money to education in the following session. Suddenly the board finds themselves in a position where they may not be able to meet payroll for existing staff. Hence the need for reserves. And no, loosing students does not necessarily mean a school can reduce staff.

  42. jerry 2018-09-04 20:03

    If the state can do this: ” Public schools are also discounting tuition for students coming from out of state. Public universities in Michigan, South Dakota and Nebraska charge out-of-state students in-state tuition. Orono-based University of Maine matches the tuition of its neighboring states.” Why can’t the state fund teachers with the $4,500.00 need if they can do it with school tuition in that same amount, more or less?

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