Mitchell School Superintendent Joe Graves is writing today in the Mitchell Daily Republic that South Dakota may actually be more competitive in school funding than the education lobby in the state might care to admit – and that part of the solution to teacher pay in the state might be up to schools in how they spend their money:
Yet, today, here I am stuck in the middle on the governor’s recently proposed blue ribbon committee to study the issue of teacher shortages and compensation levels. On the one hand, I view such an endeavor with a cynical eye, wondering if such a political animal is more about finding real solutions to a serious problem or about putting off the pain that such an obvious solution will bring to the political class. What better way to ignore a problem than by studying it one more time, ad infinitum or at least ad nauseam (the latter, quite literally).
State finance officials point out that while teacher compensation may be bottom of the barrel, funding provided to schools compared to other states is significantly more competitive. Which means, if accurate, that either South Dakota schools are spending money on things other than teacher salaries or that we have serious inefficiencies or just alternative choices in our education spending. An example of the former might be transportation, the busing of all those students across wide expanses of our sparsely populated state both to get to school and to the far-flung school district against whose basketball team we are competing. An example of the latter might be the need to pay a teacher and an administrator in a rural school in which class sizes fall below those that could be more efficiently maintained simply because there are no additional students.
Alternatively, there may be other options for increasing average teacher compensation levels other than the straightforward and endlessly offered by educators and their lobbyists: give the schools more so they can pay teachers more.
I bring it up, as I don’t know those are statistics that we’ve heard much about before – and Graves brings up a valid point. We might very be competitive in what we spend, it’s just going to other expenses, and unable to be spent directly to educators.
And if that’s the case, we might not be excited with the solutions.