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SD Teacher Pay Not Keeping Pace with Inflation or Neighbors; New Hires May Not Keep Up with New Enrollments

Senator Jim Bolin (R-16/Canton) is still fretting about inflation, but from Bob Mercer’s account of last week’s Teacher Compensation Review Board meeting, it doesn’t sound like he’s urging his fellow lawmakers to help schools and teachers deal with rising prices:

Senator Jim Bolin warned “the big I word” — inflation — will reduce purchasing power of school employees, especially teachers, if it takes off. The Legislature since 1995 has limited increases in state aid to schools to the rate of inflation but no more than 3%.

Bolin, a retired educator, said that only twice in the past 25 years has inflation been higher. But the post-COVID economy in the United States is showing signs that inflation could exceed 3%. Pogany talked about inflation reaching the mid-4% range. Bolin said he expected many legislators would still oppose loosening the inflation limit [Bob Mercer, “S.D. Teacher-Compensation Review Board Meets, as a Surge of Covid-Related Vacancies Rolls On,” KELO-TV, 2021.07.16].

Forget keeping up with the actual cost of living; even with an extra half-penny sales tax, we can’t get our teacher pay to keep up with the going market rates for instructional labor in other states. The Department of Education showed Bolin and his fellow do-nothing legislators that, even when we factor in regional price parities, South Dakota teacher pay just barely beats Montana’s and lags behind every other neighboring state’s:

South Dakota Department of Education, presentation to SD Teacher Compensation Review Board, 2021.07.16.
South Dakota Department of Education, presentation to SD Teacher Compensation Review Board, 2021.07.16.

The state’s plan to raise teacher pay to at least the regional median was perhaps doomed from the start because it was based on Governor Dennis Daugaard’s flawed assumption that schools should and would cut 400 teaching positions. That assumption did not pan out. The 2016 enactment of Daugaard’s sales-tax/teacher-pay plan made no dent in the upward curve of the statewide K-12 teacher workforce, and the Department of Education projects our schools will continue to hire more teachers for the next five years to serve the increasing number of students:

SDDOE, 2021.07.16.
SDDOE, 2021.07.16.

The DOE notes that the ratio of projected new students to projected new teachers is 20 to 1, while the desired ratio of students to teachers is 14 to 1. Maybe Senator Bolin needs to worry about that inflation rate.


  1. Sam@2 2021-07-19 09:47

    Teachers welcome to the world of Jjoe Biden. All workers are seeing the same. The polices of Joe Biden will take us back to the Jimmy Carter days.

    Teachers need to starting teaching and stop complaining. They always say it is for the kids, if this is the case why the complaining.

  2. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2021-07-19 09:55

    Sam, the price increases you and Jim want to blame on Joe Biden would have been occurring no matter who won last year’s presidential campaign. They result from pandemic disruptions to the economy, to kinks in the supply chain, not to the policies of the current administration.

    We can make a better argument that the price increases in various sectors stem from the previous Administration failing to take coronavirus seriously, letting it spread rampantly, generally not paying any attention to fiscal policy or any other economic policy that could mitigate supply-chain disruptions, and fueling anti-vax conspiracy theories that are still negatively impacting the economy.

    And would you rather have Japanese stagnation?

  3. O 2021-07-19 10:49

    It has not taken SD long to forget what triggered the Blue Ribbon Task force in the first place: schools’ inability to recruit and retain teachers. Although COVID took the headlines, schools still struggle to staff classrooms. That was the real impetus for legislative change.

    Sam, I am in it for the kids, but I can only affect a comparatively small number of students (compared to the total population of students in SD) with my classroom work. I also advocate for change to the state education funding because that is also for the kids — that work allows change to benefit all the students of SD. It is not “complaining” is is advocacy — important advocacy to meet the needs of SD moving forward in ANT endeavor. Employment, business ownership, leadership, just good citizenry all hinge on a well-educated population. NOTHING achieves that goal like an excellent public education system, funded to meet the needs of all of our students.

  4. Porter Lansing 2021-07-19 14:54

    Because you’re the real victim, aren’t you Sam@2?

    No Dem President could ever be as intelligent as George W Bush or as honest and truthful as Donald Trump.

    How do you possibly tolerate this horrible situation you’ve been handed by Joe Steady Biden?

    Feeling for you and your ex wives, buddy.

  5. Jenny 2021-07-19 15:54

    I was astonished and amazed to read the other day on here that base pay for first year teachers in Sioux Falls is only $37,0000/year. My jaw fell open, and then I remembered the years of low wage living in SD and how depressing it was – not getting yearly raises, working hard and your paycheck is just never enough. I shuddered as I remembered those years and never want to go back to living them. It’s actually kind of traumatizing in a way to be taken advantage of by being paid poverty wages.

    When you probably have thousands in college loans, how can a young teacher survive on that in costly Sioux Falls?
    SD needs to start appreciating it’s workers. Someday, the Dems just might win them over in the voting booth.

  6. Mark Anderson 2021-07-19 19:44

    Hey Sam, you get what you pay for, thanks for your two cents.

  7. MD 2021-07-20 17:49

    Well, out of state took another one.
    My friend in ND is marrying a teacher in South Dakota. Her fiancé is paying to get out of his teaching contract in SD as soon as possible as staying at low pay for another year did not seem alluring compared to testing the job market in ND as soon as possible.

    If pay doesn’t go up, teachers will vote with their feet (either leaving the profession or leaving the state). My mother was guilted into coming out of retirement last year to teach because of an unfilled vacancy but baby boomer teachers can’t save South Dakota’s education system much longer.

  8. MD 2021-07-20 18:00

    I also must add that I have couple friends in SD that are teachers. She is out of the workforce because teaching wouldn’t reasonably cover her childcare and he is working on his exit plan from teaching. Minus 1 teacher, and soon to be minus 2 more teachers

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