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Clearly, Paying Teachers Peanuts is the Way to Produce Good Teaching

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I can think of no better way to provide quality education for our students than paying teachers so poorly that they are forced to get 2nd and 3rd jobs to make ends meet, thus giving them no time to prep for class or rest.

Second and even third jobs are the norm for many school teachers in South Dakota, where teacher pay ranks lowest in the nation, according to a state education task force. Gov. Dennis Daugaard has proposed a half-cent sales tax increase to help raise teacher pay, but his plan needs two-thirds approval in both the House and the Senate — a tough proposition in a legislature with an anti-tax lean.

Mary McCorkle, president of the South Dakota Education Association, said teachers often give up their evenings by grading papers and preparing lessons, and second jobs lead to burnout.

“Something has to give, whether it’s your health, your sanity,” McCorkle said. “You just can’t do everything, and you want to be there for your students.”

The SDEA, which represents more than 5,000 teachers in the state, said Daugaard’s proposal is an acknowledgement that South Dakota schools are having trouble hiring and keeping teachers.

The Brookings School District used to get dozens of applications for each open teaching position but now receives resumes from just a handful of qualified candidates, said school board President Steve Bayer. The pool depth is likely dwindling as applicants look across South Dakota’s eastern border to better-paying jobs.

“When you can make another thousand dollars a month as an experienced teacher, it’s probably worth looking at a place in Minnesota,” he said.

South Dakota’s average teacher salary of $40,023 in 2013-14 lagged an average of six states that border it by $11,888 a year and was $8,643 behind the next lowest neighbor, North Dakota, the group found. In some of South Dakota’s more remote areas, that average salary drops quickly.

Looks like Kansas and Louisiana might learn some tips from South Dakota on how the next step of their wars to destroy their own middle classes.

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