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Support Education? Show Me the Money
Nov 28, 2012
Last January, Melody Schopp, South Dakota's education secretary, said she didn't think great teachers were motivated by monetary rewards. She then spent the rest of this year advocating her boss Governor Daugaard's scheme to motivate teachers with monetary rewards.
South Dakota voters shot that nonsense down at the polls. "The voters did speak on the issue," sighed Secretary Schopp the next day, "but I don't think, though, that in the long term it will change the important work we're doing moving forward." Secretary Schopp then went on a retreat with her Department of Education staff (and oh, how I enjoy using the words "retreat" and "Department of Education" in the same sentence) and settled on some slightly more coherent language. She now tells the press that DoE's focus in the coming legislative session won't be "reforming" education but "supporting" education.
Whew! What a relief. Secretary Schopp appears to be abandoning the "change for change's sake" rhetoric that she and other gubernatorial water-carriers mustered in defense of the Governor's toxic education reform package. But now that our schools don't need "reform," what sort of "support" do we need?
Let me help you out, Secretary Schopp. I do this school thing for a living. Support means putting South Dakota's money where its mouth is. Support does not mean more task force meetings or workshops or expensive software. Support means pay.
South Dakota has paid the lowest teacher salaries in the nation for at least two generations. Here are the numbers:
- In 2011, South Dakota paid teachers an average of $39,850.
- That's $4,300 less, almost 10% less, than in the next lowest state, Oklahoma.
- That's $6,200 less (14%) than in the cheapest neighboring state, North Dakota.
- That's $16,800 less (30%) than the national average teacher salary.
- Last I checked, South Dakota's cost of living is only 0.5% below the national average.
- South Dakota's 2011 per capita income was over $44,000, 13th nationwide.
- Nationally in 2011, per capita income was $41,560.
- In 2011, South Dakota teachers made 10% less than the state per capita income.
- In 2011, teachers nationwide made 36% more than the national per capita income.
You want to support education? Raise teacher pay. Give each teacher the $11,000 raise that would get us to the regional average. Give us each the $4,300 that would tie us for last place with Oklahoma.
Paying teachers more isn't about boosting our motivation or performance (though even $4,300 would go a long way to getting teachers' minds off looking for a second job to cover the car payment). Paying teachers more is about admitting and erasing the far-too-long-standing shame of valuing teachers less than any other state in the Union. It's about paying us what we are worth.
Secretary Schopp, thank you for your support. Now show us the money.
Editor's Note: Cory Heidelberger is our political columnist from the left. For a right-wing perspective on politics, please look for columns by Dr. Ken Blanchard every other Monday on this site.
Cory Allen Heidelberger writes the Madville Times political blog. He grew up on the shores of Lake Herman. He studied math and history at SDSU and information systems at DSU, and is currently teaching French at Spearfish High School. A longtime country dweller, Cory is enjoying "urban" living with his family in Spearfish.