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Teacher Shortage Remains Near Record High

The South Dakota Associated School Boards report 515 openings for K-12 teachers in South Dakota, five fewer than last year at this time.

515 is more than double the recent low of about 250 that we enjoyed in AY2019, when it appeared that maybe the money Governor Dennis Daugaard and the Legislature appropriated from the half-penny sales tax hike to raise teacher pay was making a difference.

Whacky achronological chart of teacher openings at the end of April from AY2015 through AY2023, in Rae Yost, "Teacher Openings at 515 in South Dakota," KELO-TV, 2023.05.01.
Whacky achronological chart of teacher openings at the end of April from AY2015 through AY2023, in Rae Yost, “Teacher Openings at 515 in South Dakota,” KELO-TV, 2023.05.01.

Maybe Governor Noem can recruit Hillsdale College graduates to come from Michigan and fill those openings.


  1. larry kurtz 2023-05-02 07:43

    Destroying public education in red states is going exactly as planned. Montana’s teaching workforce is crashing, too as talent is fleeing for blue states.

  2. Nick Nemec 2023-05-02 07:58

    I know it is sarcasm but please don’t advocate any further infiltration of South Dakota by the Hillsdale College radicals.

  3. O 2023-05-02 08:32

    Even this graph is a bit misleading: more and more schools are trying to find and lace teachers earlier and earlier in an ever tightening pool of teachers. No longer can schools wait until contracts are turned in to begin filling open positions.

  4. sx123 2023-05-02 08:50

    Why is this the case? I don’t want to assume low wages here.

  5. John 2023-05-02 09:01

    Of course the teacher shortage is real. The republicans are reaping what they sow.

    And pay attention to the demographic pyramid. College and university attendance is plummeting. The only way to reverse the trend is massive immigration of brown-skinned young people — which republicans will oppose lock, stock, and barrel.

    South Dakota ought to catch-up to what they sowed by consolidating its too numerous universities and colleges. Colleges at Madison and Aberdeen need to be on the chopping block, or at least reorganized for something useful.

  6. Loren 2023-05-02 09:21

    What Nick said! I hope that was a stab at sarcasm, but it could also be just what Kristi is thinking. :-(

  7. P. Aitch 2023-05-02 09:24

    Research Reveals:
    Appointing a business executive (James Lochner) who tolerates “pink slime” and promotes fresh meat in general to a position of Education Regent in South Dakota is highly unethical and risky for several reasons:

    1. Lack of expertise in education: Promoting/tolerating”pink slime” and retail meat marketing has nothing to do with education. Lochner lacks expertise in the field. It will be highly difficult for him to make wise decisions about education without any relevant experience or qualifications.

    2. Ethical concerns: The tolerance of “pink slime” within the food industry was highly criticized due to its low quality and potential health risks. By appointing such an individual to a position of authority, it sends a message that ethics and accountability in education may not be a Noem priority.

    3. Conflict of interest: Jim Lochner is still semi-involved with the business of promoting meat. This will create a potential conflict of interest that will compromise his decision-making in education matters.

    4. Public perception: Appointing someone who has promoted questionable products to a high level position is likely to create a negative public perception of the education system. This will no doubt undermine trust in the Noem government’s ability to make wise and ethical decisions on behalf of its citizens.

    Appointing a “meat guy” to the position of Education Regent in South Dakota is not only unethical but also a potential risk to the education system and public trust in government.

  8. O 2023-05-02 09:53

    sx123, the short answer is respect for the profession. Largely this is measured in wages but also less tangible factors. When the 1/2 penny sales tax was being discussed, both the monetary and those intangibles were trending up for teachers. However, just since then, the wages have stagnated — especially for teachers who want to make a career out of teaching; beginning teacher wages are actually quite competitive in SD, but teachers lose ground quickly over the course of years of service (compared to our neighboring states and national averages). We have incentivized dipping your toe into the profession, then getting out. Also these last years have been absolutely negative in how teachers and teaching are discussed in SD. Being referred to as “groomers” or “pedophiles” makes teachers rethink teaching as a career pathway. Even the constant subtext of teachers being a drain on the economy or the reason for taxation undermines professional satisfaction. Openly throwing out the experience of teaching (as seen with the Social Studies indoctrination tragedy) and allowing schools to become the new battle ground of political signaling puts teachers off.

    Especially consider our Conservative families: how many parents push teaching as a profession for their children?

  9. LCJ 2023-05-02 10:28

    And as usual, the teachers union does nothing.

  10. Long Time First Time 2023-05-02 10:59

    I have countless former teacher friends who left the profession due to issues with administration and/or parents, NOT their wages or lack thereof. I cannot imagine trying to teach horrible kids with horrible parents and getting little to no support from my administration.

  11. larry kurtz 2023-05-02 11:24

    It is entirely predictable that all Republicans will do is whine when things go south after sabotaging unions in red states.

  12. LCJ 2023-05-02 11:55

    Yet here you are, whining again.

  13. larry kurtz 2023-05-02 12:08

    I live in a state where teachers are reverend, unions are strong and Democrats rule so whining isn’t what we do here. In South Dakota, however, police unions get the cash and teachers’ unions get the shaft.

    WalletHub just ranked us third in best states for nurses.

  14. bearcreekbat 2023-05-02 14:31

    LCJ mentions the S.D. teachers union and suggests that it is doing nothing, implying that the unions could and should do something more than what is currently being legally done. What is missing from LCJ’s assertion is the S.D. legislative attempts to incapacitate all unions, and most pointedly teacher’s unions.

    The most potent weapon a union has is for the members of that union to go on strike until the powers that be, here the State and local school authorities, meet the reasonable demands of the union. Here perhaps a strike for increased salary to get teachers off the floor of the country, and a strike for increased freedom to teach without political and religious attacks on teaching methods and materials, could be something the teachers union could fight for to help make teaching a more attractive profession in S.D.

    But, if I am not mistaken the S.D. “right to work” laws have made strikes ineffective tools, and worse yet, teachers that go on strike can be prosecuted criminally in S.D. In light of these impediments, I wonder what LCJ thinks the teachers unions have the power to do in S.D.? Rather than arbitrarily making a meaningless and tripe assertion that “as usual, the teachers union does nothing,” perhaps LCJ could tell us just what he or she thinks the teachers union could and should legally do or be expected to do?

  15. O 2023-05-02 17:01

    A weak union has exacerbated the teacher (and larger education) problem in SD. bearcreekbat identifies the right to work and criminalizing of strikes as two impediments to collective action. Beneath that is a litany of other regulation covering issues like contract disputes and last-best offers that also do the work to undermine the leverage of unions. Really, what we speak of when we speak of unions is the ability for labor to work collectively. By negating that legislatively, our Conservative friends have made much of teacher action individual. We don’t notice individual action; when a few teachers for seemingly unrelated reasons leave a school, or the state, or the profession it is easy to ignore the reasons for those moves. When that constant trickle becomes a steady flow, it is still individual action — and unnoticed. However, if these had been collective actions of protest or defiance in the face of policies and practices that endanger the very existence of a teacher workforce, THEN maybe action could have resulted. Instead it is death by a thousand cuts until the inevitable conclusion.

    But I teaching is not unique. Any trade is hampered by the same constraints (while fed platitudes of how hard they work and how that is a trait — an ethic –to be respected). Unions, the embodiment of collective action, the sole of democratic principal, are the only way to even the scale of advocacy. There is a power discrepancy; our Conservative friends feed on that discrepancy; our trades starve from it. As long as SD (and other GOP voters) are willing to subsidize the owner class with their votes (and food from their table) and their union membership rejection — against their own labor class interests, there will be no economic justice.

  16. Mark Anderson 2023-05-02 17:45

    Bearcreekbar, you need to list the full name. A right to work for less state is the appropriate call.

  17. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2023-05-02 20:32

    Dang—If wages aren’t the core problem, is there any Legislative fix for the teacher shortage?

  18. O 2023-05-02 21:33

    Cory, funding is central to any legislative fix. That funding needs to be long-term focused on continued improvement across the entire spectrum of teacher experience. The legislature can empower collective bargaining through binding arbitration. The legislature could also take steps to promote educator voice by focusing more on approving appointments to education boards ONLY for education professionals (no there board allows the majority of lay people to govern).

    I would love to see something truly radical like handing over certification to SDEA; have the teacher professional organization bestow certification for its trade like the ABA ro AMA. One could also argue for removal/insulation of curriculum from government entities period.

  19. DaveFN 2023-05-02 21:35

    LCJ and other union commentators

    Unfortunately we’re in a right-to-work state, and what’s worse is that those teachers and employees who aren’t who find themselves suffering a similar fate. Such is the capitalist mental inertia that recks having on us all.

    The best of all possible worlds for the greatest possible good would indeed be one in which employer/administrator dictates from the top are counterbalanced and dialecticized by employee/teacher considerations and perspectives from below as it were, as far as I’m concerned. But those who have by hook or crook acceded to current positions of power don’t see it that way. Not do the many who resent having their positions challenged, I hasten to add, whatever those positions may be, whether minority positions or positions of those in power, whether positions flamingly liberal or righteously conservative.

    I’m with Cory insofar as he indicates wages are the fundamental problem. People necessarily follow the money–for better or worse. SD university faculty have traditionally been recruited and rewarded on that very principle, with engineers being paid higher than scientists who in turn have been paid higher than those in the humanities, the tacit principle being that the only way to attract engineers away from industries to offer them competitive salaries—irrespective of the fact that there are plenty of engineers who either willfully choose to go into academe rather than industry and/or couldn’t cut it in industry in the first place. The logical consequence is the sciences and humanities faculty ultimately subsidize the supposed elite—at the expense of science and humanities education, of course, the unstated elephant in the room.

    Yes, unions are weak, but only because they have been weakened as well as have at least indirectly given their consent to concessions to lesser objectives. And unions are in-and-of-themselves far from free from corruption, we might note.

  20. DaveFN 2023-05-03 01:19

    … and since there’s no longer a higher education union in South Dakota to oversee and flag university faculty salaries as there once was (COHE, the Council of Higher Education), god only knows what kind of salary discrimination process is currently being practiced.

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