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Daily Teacher Pay Lowest in South Dakota—Move to Minnesota for Daily $100 Bonus

The Teacher Compensation Review Board finds we still aren’t living up to the promise of the 2016 sales-tax-for-teacher-pay plan. No matter which way you slice the data, South Dakota still values teachers and education less than any neighboring state.

The board met last week Friday to approve its report to the Legislature; it posted that final report to the Governor and Legislature Monday afternoon. Appended to the report are the slides the Department of Education presented to the board at its summer meetings. As I reported in July, the data in the first set of slides show South Dakota schools falling further behind the Legislature’s target teacher salary every school year since AY2019. That July presentation also showed South Dakota’s teachers get the lowest salaries and have the lowest purchasing power of any teachers in our seven-state region.

South Dakota Department of Education, presentation to Teacher Compensation Review Board, 2023.07.17, slide 9.
South Dakota Department of Education, presentation to Teacher Compensation Review Board, 2023.07.17, slide 9; now Appendix A to 2023 Teacher Compensation Review Board Report to the Governor and Legislature, approved 2023.09.15.
SDDOE, 2023.07.17, slide 11.
SDDOE, 2023.07.17, slide 11.
SDDOE, 2023.07.17, slide 14.
SDDOE, 2023.07.17, slide 14.

The August slides note that South Dakota’s 175 contracted instructional days fall in the middle of the regional pack, matching North Dakota and Wyoming; a week less than the 180 in Montana, Nebraska, and Iowa; but two weeks less than the 165 in Minnesota. Teachers generally dedicate more days than the contracted in-class days to preparing units and honing their pedagogical skills, but if we figure teacher pay on a daily basis, South Dakota pays teachers less per contracted day than all of its neighbors, even those with longer contracted school years:

SDDOE, presentation to TCRB, 2023.08.21, slide 9; now Appendix B to 2023 TCRB Final Report, approved 2023.09.15.
SDDOE, presentation to TCRB, 2023.08.21, slide 9; now Appendix B to 2023 TCRB Final Report, approved 2023.09.15.
SDDOE, 2023.08.21, slide 9.
SDDOE, 2023.08.21, slide 9.

Each contracted day, South Dakota teachers walk out of their classrooms with about $9 less than Montana teachers, $30 less than Nebraska teachers, and $100 less than Minnesota teachers.

Whatever job you do, imagine the boss walked in at the end of each work day and handed you a hundred-dollar bill on top of your regular pay. A hundred-dollar bonus every work day buys a lot of freedom. That’s the incentive South Dakota teachers have to apply for classroom openings in Minnesota.


  1. jkl 2023-09-20 12:42

    I would imagine that all SD state workers lag behind adjacent states. It is not by accident.

  2. All Mammal 2023-09-20 13:56

    Where is all that lottery loot going? It sure isn’t sticking around the state. Only the mob would know what to do with that amount of ill-gotten cash. Maybe it has the same destination as the gobs of cash paid to the 24/7 program.

  3. Dave Baumeister 2023-09-20 19:37

    I am so proud that my daughter is going to school to become a teacher, but, sadly, I have told her to NEVER, EVER come back to South Dakota to teach. She is attending school in Minnesota now, and will most likely look at teaching there (although, P. Aitch, I may suggest she look at small towns in Colorado!). It was clear back when I lived in Yankton, and saw a group of nearly illiterate people in that community fight successfully against two badly needed opt-outs, that this wasn’t the place for teachers or students to thrive.

  4. Richard Schriever 2023-09-21 05:29

    A starting Equipment Operator job with my MN employer pays $40.62/hr. (+ union benefits).
    Same job advertised as “now hiring” in SD generally pays around $25-28/hr. (benefits are unclear).

  5. Anne Beal 2023-09-21 08:13

    I attended a private school, where the teachers talked about how the pay was a lot lower than they could make in the public school, but the trade-off was worth it, because they didn’t have the discipline problems.

    I know a 3rd grade teacher in Massachusetts who makes lots of money.
    She describes the post-covid classroom as a “hellscape” and is thinking about quitting.
    The kids missed nearly two years of socialization and discipline. It’s like “Lord of the Flies,” it’s like they were raised by wolves. In Massachusetts, 32% of kids live in single-parent homes, (Massachusetts Family Institute, June 2023) nationally the rate is 23% (Pew Research Center March 2023) It’s 29% here. (America First Policy Institute, December 2022.)
    When the schools closed, those kids from single-parent homes were on their own, as the one parent was trying to earn a living and run the house without a partner. Now the schools are open again, and the teachers are confronted with classrooms full of feral children. It’s awful. But the pay is great!

  6. O 2023-09-21 08:17

    All Mammal, the lottery loot went into property tax reduction. it went into education, then education’s budget had a sieve installed to send money to property tax reduction.

  7. larry kurtz 2023-09-21 08:19

    Mrs. Beal is making stuff up. Massachusetts is the 7th best state for teachers and 5th in academic and work environment. South Dakota is 47th in teacher pay according to WalletHub.

  8. Dicta 2023-09-21 08:27

    What a surprise, an out-of-touch boomer assumes generations after her are feral and will lead to the downfall of America, despite available evidence.

  9. Donald Pay 2023-09-21 08:38

    Ann Beale certainly makes a good case for ending home schooling.

  10. grudznick 2023-09-21 08:42

    My close personal friend Lar knows wallethub is a crock. I have surveys that show it so.

    If only law bill had not been mooted and the teachers in the upper levels of the Seven Indisputable Levels of Teachers were being paid on merit.

  11. larry kurtz 2023-09-21 08:58

    You don’t have any close personal friends, crudzdick.

  12. Scott P Graves 2023-09-21 09:42

    I would like to see charts showing teacher pay compared to math and reading scores done state by state. Money doesn’t equal higher scores. Also the numbers need to be adjusted for cost of living.

    My brother and sister are both teachers in South Dakota and don’t complain about the money they make. Their income is pretty good for working 9 months a year.

  13. CK 2023-09-21 14:10

    Well here you go, Scott. It does seem like better pay does help.,deviation)%20higher%20average%20math%20score.

    As a single mom of 3 on a teacher’s salary, I will complain. The work I do, even throughout the summer, is not compensated properly. Also, if teachers had better salaries in this state, we’d have more teachers. More teachers mean that we’re not all stretched to the max with extra duties.

  14. All Mammal 2023-09-21 14:36

    O- my property taxes have never been reduced. They increase, while more casinos open on every corner and schools close due to no money for roof repairs. There’s got to be a mob handling that amount in lottery assets. I also thought the sale of our concrete plant was going to go towards education…that’s what the explanation on the ballot said.

    With funding from sales tax, the concrete plant, property taxes, and video lottery, our teachers should all have PhDs and our kids should all have academic scholarships.

  15. jkl 2023-09-21 14:37

    From the above linked research report:

    “A 10% increase in teacher salary is associated with about 0.2 points (0.01 of a standard deviation) higher average math score.”

    Is 0.2 points (0.01 of a standard deviation) improvement a good return on the salary increase?

  16. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2023-09-21 17:37

    Anne, private schools get to discriminate, excluding students who might be tough to teach. Public schools don’t have that option. We must pay teachers accordingly for the greater challenge and greater public service to which they commit themselves.

  17. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2023-09-21 17:48

    First, kudos to CK for answering Scott’s question with real research showing small but statistically significant increases in student test scores correlating to increased teacher base salary.

    Second, Scott and JKL, the question is not about return on investment. The question is not about whether we need to spend extra money to get better test scores than Minnesota or Nebraska. The question is how much do we have to pay to fully staff our schools with qualified teachers. Teachers will do the same work under similar conditions and calendars and be expected to produce similar results—basic education for all students—in every state. If we consistently pay less for that work than other states, teachers, like all rational market actors, will gravitate away from South Dakota and toward other states, and we will have fewer qualified applicants to choose from to teach our kids.

    The fact that Scott can point to two teachers who don’t complain is a nice anecdote, but anecdotes don’t answer statistical questions. Sure, the folks you find working alongside Scott’s kin in South Dakota aren’t complaining: folks not inclined to complain are more likely to apply in South Dakota, and folks who are inclined to complain—or, more accurately, to say they aren’t willing to sacrifice financial security and opportunity to work in South Dakota—are more likely to apply in other states or other professions that pay better.

    If you believe in market—if you believe that higher pay increases the number and quality of workers you can recruit and retain—then you have to look at South Dakota’s lowball-any-way-you-slice-them teacher salaries with alarm.

  18. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2023-09-21 17:54

    Don’t forget that when we are bidding for teachers, we are competing for highly educated professionals not just with other states that pay teachers more but with other professions that reward college education with higher pay.

    Plus, Scott’s contention that SD teacher pay is good pay for nine months of work misses another point: teachers may not be able to make ends meet with those nine months of pay. Lots of teachers take second jobs, and every hour they spend at a second job is an hour they aren’t spending improving their teaching skills or just resting and re-energizing for another school day and another school year. Pay teachers more, and they have less need of a second income stream, meaning they can focus their energy on teaching our kids and thus do a better job of teaching.

    These benefits of higher pay are among six cited in this 2020 article.

  19. e platypus onion 2023-09-21 17:57

    Teachers are paid based on 12 months of the year, not 9. I’m guessing the extra three months doesn’t enhance the pay of teachers.

  20. jkl 2023-09-22 16:03

    I agree your article was about how much do we have to pay to fully staff our schools with qualified teachers. I was responding to the CK attached report that compared test scores and compensation. I agree that SD is losing the competition for qualified teachers, as we are losing the competition for all professionals. How often is “brain drain” discussed and lamented on your site. I will repeat my first comment to this article: I would imagine that all SD state workers lag behind adjacent states. It is not by accident.

  21. Mike Lee Zitterich 2023-09-23 09:35

    Oh man, now you are all worried about the pay in the public sector, whether its teachers, public officials, officers, or other employees, the pay SHOULD NOT be higher than what it is in the private sector of whom provides the revenues to which fund the “government”

    “You Democrats” would love for all Americans to work for Government, whether it be Federal, State, Local – cause you know it is the only means or way to force people into that “public system of tax subsidies, credits, other monies”. You are upset that so many Americans are learning of ways to AVOID federal taxes, that you would rather ‘sue’ States such as South Dakota over their Trust laws, which provide for a better environment for “Citizens” raising wages and providing better homes, for the 889,000 S.D Citizens.

    But, you want to trap us into this ‘scheme’ to over pay public school teachers, cause you believe “Wages” are tied to results…

    South Dakota Teachers are well compensated, they are making on the average, $45,000 to $55,000 dollars a yea, to which, also we provide to them an excellent retirement program of which gives them a steady income for the day they die, and of which we provide full time teachers quality Healthcare programs, to which offers to them excellent medical care until the day they die.

    Teachers have one job, provide for the Basic Education such as Math, Reading, Writing, History, and Science to our Children ages 5 to 18.

    Our Parents have the most responsibility as they instill into our children the basic Morals, Values, Ethics, and Responsibility to be good people.

    Collectively – the two go hand in hand, the provide to our children all the tools necessary to become great stewards of society by the time they turn the age of 18, which along the way, by the time our “Young Children” ages 1-12 become young adults during their teenager years 13-19, they are gaining the privilege of restoring all of rights to Employment, Driving on Public Roads, Forming Relationships, to Getting Married. We are together, grooming our next greatest “Conservative Group of People” to which will further the Old adage of South Dakota morals, values, responsibilies, of which thanks to our ancestors – that Pommerian Group of Farmers, Businessmen, and People, we stay true to our convictions, our christian faith, and to our “God”.

    No matter what we pay our teachers, the true ‘gains’ or profits can be achieved in the results of a well informed society of men and women who gained from that basic education, to which our future generations become Apprentices, College Graduates, or Self Employed People.

  22. P. Aitch 2023-09-23 09:48

    Mr. Zitterich is only worth reading for about half of his first sentences. Even less worthy of comments very often. But …

    Zit – Liberals are like cats. Most of the time you don’t even know we’re around. There is no “all” as in a group. “Oh man, now you are all worried” is an invalid assertion. Try again, young man.

  23. e platypus onion 2023-09-23 10:11

    In that data, chiefly from the Department of Education and National Education Association, South Dakota is competitive with it’s starting average teacher salary of $41,170. That puts the state 28th overall in the nation. But where that edge tapers off is with veteran teachers, with neighboring states paying more on average. South Dakota’s overall average teacher salary is around $50,592, 49th overall in the nation and only beating out Mississippi and West Virigina.

    Well compensated compared to Southern South Duhkota and W Virginia. And what I remember of High School math an average can’t consist of two numbers.

  24. O 2023-09-23 18:36

    But Mike Z, if we do not pay our state workers well, how can we perpetuate the Deep State?

  25. O 2023-09-23 18:43

    If I were the conspiracy thinking type, I’d say conservatives want a good opening salary to draw new teachers in. Then make salary growth antithetical to a professional career so that experienced teachers drop out and people who are career focused never get in. Create as much churn as possible to keep the profession from creating institutional knowledge. Yet another step in the undermining of public education in America.

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