Paying teachers more is easy. But paying for it is the ultimate question to be faced.

“If wishes were fishes, we’d all cast nets into the sea.” – borrowed from a Scottish Nursery Rhyme.

There are many people out there who think educators deserve more money in their paychecks. As Bob Mercer writing for the Rapid City Journal notes today, the Blue Ribbon Panel notes that teacher raises are possible. It’s just that pesky part of paying for it which causes headaches:

Teacher raises are possible in the next few years, a state education task force said on Wednesday, but members left out something important: where the money would come from.

Public school teachers in South Dakota might see their salaries increase $8,000 to $10,000 apiece over the course of three to five years under goals discussed by the governor’s Blue Ribbon task force on teachers and students.

But the panel of educators, legislators and businesspeople didn’t specify the tax package to generate the $80 million to $100 million that would be necessary. The members said they hoped to have financial data at the next meeting on Oct. 1.


Where the task force might head in its deliberations on Oct. 1 isn’t clear. Financial information will be brought back, such as estimates of costs and possible sources of tax revenue.

Some members want changes in the state funding formula. Some want efficiency requirements. Some want school boards to face new limits on the amounts of non-obligated cash that they hold. Some want compensation tied to mentoring. Some want property-tax relief. Some want capital-outlay tax levies on property changed.

Read it all here.

As noted, there’s no shortage of proposals out there for more revenue. You have everything from Paula Hawks advocating for a state income tax since early in her House tenure, and earlier this year, Republican House member Lee Schoenbeck opined over how a proposed summer tourism tax could fill the gap.

But who out there thinks that – especially in an election year – legislators are going to pass $100 million in new taxes for teacher salaries?

Alternatively, I know Lee’s not afraid to propose bold solutions. But will Paula put her name on the sponsorship line for a state income tax, or is she just a lot of talk now that she’s running for Congress?

Paying teachers more is easy. But paying for it is the ultimate question to be faced.

What are your thoughts? Do we need to do it? And Is it going to take a new tax?

37 thoughts on “Paying teachers more is easy. But paying for it is the ultimate question to be faced.”

  1. Education already gets a huge share of the state budget. Why not do a penny by penny accounting of where the actual money goes? How much actually goes to support extracurriculars, which have greatly expanded in recent years (this includes coaches, meals, transportation, equipment, gyms, and of course the time out of school for actual academics)? How much goes to inflated salaries of the ever expanding numbers of administrators and athletic directors? How much spent on new buildings instead of salaries?

    And how about a study comparing teaching salaries to actual salaries of other people in SD? Jobs without a loud union voice. Just about any occupation will make more if they cross state lines, but then compare the tax load in those states.

    As to the teacher shortage, how about the fact that many willing and good teachers are passed over because they also cannot or do not want to coach besides teach? This is not conjecture but comes straight from the mouth of a small town teacher.

    As to the shortage, how about the fact that the teaching profession is no longer held in high esteem by many. Many students do not respect teachers, and the teachers no longer feel able to use discipline (and I do NOT mean hitting a kid’s hand with a ruler). Also teachers are mandated to teach to the test many times and to teach in ways they do not believe work. I know a teacher who does the mandated teaching but also includes the way she knows the students will need in the future, regardless of the “flavor of the day” a this time.

    There is much more involved here than simply tossing more money at education. But I’m afraid that is all that will satisfy the union and teacher lobby.

  2. No increases in teacher pay without:

    1. more accountability for student achievement–most or all of the “raise” should be tied to student achievement
    2. More responsibility and authority given to teachers for classroom management and discipline. And yes, that includes statutory authority for corporal punishment in conjunction with principal
    3. Allow for the creation and public funding of charter schools.

    Enough of the same old “throw money at it”–we need REAL REFORM.

    1. I agree with all of your comments, except for one. In schools which are half or so ESL students, increased pay should not be tied to student achievement. If the students don’t know English, they are still required to take the computerized tests, and are told to just hit any key to get to the end and finish; needless to say, this is ridiculous. It frustrates the students and is not indicative of how well the teacher is teaching or how intelligent the student is.

      Sadly, I do not think the Blue Ribbon Task Force has much interest in these reforms.

      1. There are many ways to assess and measure student achievement, even for ESL students.

        I made no suggestion that computerized tests was the means to do that.

  3. Other reforms:

    –alternative certification
    –year round teacher duties:summer instruction/tutoring, community improvement, school maintenance, etc.
    –return mandatory attendance age to 16 yrs old
    –close ALL alternative schools;replace with specialized charter schools

  4. Why all the emphasis on sources of new or more taxes ? When will we get to actual reform of the system ? Just more money & trust us won’t get my vote .

    1. from what i can tell the proponents of a property tax hike / state income tax won’t even accurately name and describe exactly what they want, they just leave it nebulously hanging out there with the descriptor “uncollected revenues,” as if there’s a hastily covered hole in denny sanford’s backyard where the hidden millions we need will be extracted from. if taxes go up, it will involve property taxes and an income tax whether personal or business, and everyone will pay one way or another. we should be very clear about that in the whole scheme of it all.

    2. What specific reforms? Please quit telling education that it’s broken without telling us what you really think is broken.

    3. ‘Just give us more money & trust us to do the right thing.’ Won’t get my vote either (if I’m invited to play)

      But maybe the state can do some things to help reduce some of the other costs to schools. For example a central electronic repository for text books, distance learning options for some specialized classes. The option of Governor’s houses for school districts as an incentive for teachers.

  5. How about instead of taking the easy road by raising taxes or inventing new taxes/fees, the legislature actually digs into the small school factor and makes adjustments there. We don’t have a revenue problem, we have an allocation problem!!! Why are we hurting the larger schools by forcing them to subsidize the smaller school districts, when the smaller school districts are refusing to be more efficient and organized? Why are small school districts building huge new schools when they have declining school enrollment? No one wants to say it, but our rural school districts are declining in enrollment; thereby costing tax payers more dollars to keep these inefficient schools operating. If everything were on the table why hasn’t school consolidation been discussed or reported on?

    Stanley County & Pierre School District as an example: 2 Superintendents are not needed ($60K in savings), Stanley county high school kids could easily go to Pierre, when in fact a large percentage open in enroll in Pierre. This is so common sense that it would save tax payers or the school district enough dollars to increase teacher pay, problem solved….wake up legislators!!!

  6. it would appear that the Blue Ribbon task force went to a lot of trouble to determine that “teachers need to be paid more.” They did not come up with any ideas of how to raise that money?
    Did they look at how the existing funding is spent?

    Sounds like they went into the project with the theory that “teachers need to be paid more,” and after months toiling away on the task force, came out at the other end with the conclusion “teachers need to be paid more.”

    Seriously? That’s it? How many meetings did they have? Was there something wrong with the coffee?

    This morning the Argus has a story about a future teacher who says she doesn’t plan to teach here because she wouldn’t make enough money to pay off her student loans. That really hit me, that your educational debt shouldn’t exceed more than you can expect to earn in one year. If the job isn’t going to pay more than $40,000/year, you really shouldn’t borrow $100,000 to obtain it. At the same time, your employer should not determine your compensation based on how much debt you have to pay off.

    1. LOL. Tell that to the guys who spend a fortune (usually—but not always— “somebody else’s money”) to get themselves elected into office. No way those guys earn that back in one year. 🙂

        1. Per Ms. Beal: “That really hit me, that your educational debt shouldn’t exceed more than you can expect to earn in one year.”

          It was a little joke, PC. Try not to smile, you might knock a tooth loose. 😉

          1. Okay.

            Which guys were you referring to:”Tell that to the guys who spend a fortune … to get themselves elected into office”?

            School board members, who actually decide how much teachers make, spend a fortune on getting elected?

            1. Actually, I was thinking of the people who spend a billion dollars to get themselves elected president.

    2. Ann, You have a good point. People need to understand, though, that debt is not paid off in one year. If all people thought that should be true, we would have no one in the health care system. Ask the average doctor or dentist or any white color worker in the related field how much debt they acquired to get a degree. I am guessing in excess of 350,000 or more. With that degree comes all kinds of expense including high malpractice insurance. They may gross 150,000 per year but that is figured on 12 months, not 180 days. It means weekends and variable hours. We can all look at someone else’s job and think we are worth more. In reality, we are worth whatever the going rate of the profession currently is.

      1. ” In reality, we are worth whatever the going rate of the profession currently is.”

        In most sectors, that is true.

        In gov’t, simply not true.

      2. Student loans are usually paid off over ten years. So if you borrow $100,000 to get a job that pays $40,000, you will probably take home $30,000, and you will be paying off $10,000 a year just on the principal. Add in the interest you are paying, whatever the going rate is now, and you’ve got a real problem. I saw something recently about aspiring teachers going to Augustana and thought, you know, 4 years at Augie will cost you almost $200,000; somebody needs a reality check.
        The colleges are costing a fortune because people have always been willing to pay, believing it is an investment that will pay off. We now have a generation starting to question that, but unfortunately some of them have already spent the money before they figure it out.

    3. We attended one task force meeting, and it was run according to plan to get the desired outcome. They deny this, but it was run that way, and basically all the answers that got posted on the board after the meeting were that teachers weren’t paid enough. Surprising??!!

    4. Sounds good and well to say tht you shouldn’t take out loans to get a job that pays less than your student loans… But the State legislature through statute REQUIRES a teacher to have certain coursework and now most schools require a full year of student teaching in which the pre-service teacher is recommended not to work outside of student teaching and classes.

      If you don’t want future teachers to take out loans, we have just limited out teaching pool to the children of the independently wealthy and a few scholarship recipients.

      1. Why the change to a full year of student teaching? And is that now figured into the four year college plan or does it make college extend longer?

        Maybe another thing would be changing the college curriculum. If you want to teach elementary school, you take only courses to align with that. If you want to be a doctor, you take only courses aligned with that. Same with law, social work, any other degree. Why does a social worker need to study algebra? Why does a doctor need to take an art appreciation or some such course? Shorten the time required to get the degree. If a person wants to study something additional, they are free to do it, but why require everyone to take courses they don’t need and add unnecessary expense to their education. And don’t say to be well rounded; they can get that on their own dime if they want it.

  7. How much of that debt is in monuments to sports , recreation & extravagant student amenities .

  8. . The state provides a large share of the funding now, and an increase in teacher pay should be a local decision. The counties and districts could vote to raise taxes. With that in mind, all of the rest of this discussion becomes only union and political bantering. This discussion has been in place each year for as far back as I can remember.

    1. Districts have already in many cases opted out (raised taxes), and basically the only people who pay for these increased taxes are the property owners. The people in town who maybe own a basic home can’t understand why these opt outs are such a problem as these people would only pay pennies more; who wouldn’t want to pay a few more pennies? Well, for landowners it’s much more than a few pennies, and that is why opt outs are hard to pass and are not fair. And landowners aren’t necessarily rich either; the land is the investment they have in their business in order to make it work and most times are “owned” by a lending agency.

  9. I looked over a school calendar and figured out with summer vacation, state and federal holidays, Christmas and spring break, teachers work about 39 weeks a year. During those weeks they work 8:30-3:30, with half hour off for lunch, or 6.5 hours a day, with early dismissal at 3:00 on Wednesdays, for a total of 32 hours/week.
    A full time job is 2000 hours/year, and the teachers are working 1248 hours a year. Yes they have to take work home with them, get CEUs and attend workshops and so on, but so does everybody else. I can’t think of any profession which doesn’t require an expenditure of time off the clock, attending conferences, meetings, workshops, studying for certifications and re-certifications, all in the interest of personal professional development which your employer might or might not help you pay for. I did it for years, spending entire weekends doing these things in addition to working 4 12-hour shifts/week “on the floor.”

    1248 hours spread over 50 weeks is about 25 hours/week.
    I think that’s something everybody needs to contemplate: 25 hours/week.

    1. 32 hours a week?! You are seriously misguided and offensive to educators. Ask to follow around any teacher for a week and you’d be shocked. Most teachers arrive long before any bell. Many have students in their rooms during recess for extra help or go out to monitor students at that time. 30 minute lunch break- hardly! Staying late to help kids after school and plan. Rarely do teachers leave the building by 4:30, let alone the HOURS of correcting at home and on the weekends. Furthermore, training is my just a few CEUs. It is ongoing, extensive learning to prepare for each new, diverse group of students that enter their classroom.

      Anne, You need to go ask to follow a teacher around for a week in a local district as you are making false assumptions about a profession you obviously do not understand.

      1. I’ve been around teachers at all levels for decades.

        “showing up” and “working” are to different things. Sure, teachers are very good at telling you just how many hours they “spend” at school, but that does not mean that they’re “working”.

        Anne is 99% right.

  10. The following is neither a statement teacher salaries need to be raised for the good of students and/or quality of education, should be raised out of fairness, should remain the same, or be cut. I just want to give light to potential misconceptions.

    The standard work year in the United States is 2,080 hours minus paid vacation and sick leave. For the sake of discussion, let’s peg paid vacation to two weeks and sick leave to a week or a total of 120 hours making “time working” at 1,960 hours.

    Let’s overlay this on what I know of a typical teacher’s work week based on my teacher daughter (who lives with her mother and I until she gets married so she can save for a house down payment).

    My daughter leaves the house every day by 6:30 a.m., stops and gets a cup of coffee, so is for sure in her classroom by 7:00 a.m.. She very seldom gets home before 6 p.m. after stopping to workout for an hour (leaves school roughly at 5 p.m.). Thus is at school for 11 hours or 55 hours a week.

    Most days she eats at her desk so she can grade papers or prepare for later in the day. On occasion she eats with fellow teachers. So, even though lunch with her fellow teachers revolves around work discussion, let’s just say 3 hours a week while eating with other teachers she isn’t working, her effective working time at school is 52 hours a week.

    However, she spends at least an hour a night preparing lesson plans and/or grading papers, sending emails to parents regarding issues which arose during the day, and/or actually talking to parents at night.

    Thus, together, with absolute confidence, she is “on the job” over 57 hours a week.

    Assuming Anne is correct that the school year is the equivalent of 39 weeks, my daughter is working 2,028 hours a year (or 68 hours more a year than the effective standard described above of 1,960).

    My point: The idea a teacher doesn’t work a “full year” is false.

    A corollary point: The number of hours a teacher works shouldn’t be necessarily a critical consideration. in the private sector, there are people who “get the job done” in 30 hours while another needs 50 hours to “get the done.” In my mind, both of these people should be paid the same salary as salary should be determined not by hours worked but by the value of “getting the job done.”

    My combined point: If my daughter’s principal determines my daughter isn’t getting the job done as expected, she needs to put in more time to warrant her salary (paid in expectation of getting the job done). Her additional hours doesn’t warrant an increase in pay. At the same time, if there is another teacher who is able to “get the job done” and can do it showing up 20 minutes before the bell rings and can leave school 20 minutes after the kids leave, her reduced hours doesn’t warrant a cut in pay as the salary is paid for “getting the job done.”

    In summary, whether teacher’s salary should be increased, held the same, or decreased is the question at hand relative to the value of “getting the job done.” The hours worked is irrelevant.

    1. “In summary, whether teacher’s salary should be increased, held the same, or decreased is the question at hand relative to the value of “getting the job done.” The hours worked is irrelevant.’

      Mostly agree.

      The hours worked ARE relevant, just not determinative of how teachers should be compensated.

  11. “However, she spends at least an hour a night preparing lesson plans and/or grading papers, sending emails to parents regarding issues which arose during the day, and/or actually talking to parents at night.”

    If such activities are included in “work hours”, then your claim about

    “The standard work year in the United States is 2,080 hours minus paid vacation and sick leave.”

    is a false comparison because those 2080 hours [generally] do not include “outside the workplace” work-related activities.

    If one were to include similar “work preparation activities” in the 2080, then it would be much higher than 2080 hours. 2080 does not include drive times to a non-teaching job, studying reports at home, preparing for a performance evaluation, studying policies and manuals, follow-up sales calls, smoozing at the CofC dinner, and on and on…

    The only possibly useful way of comparing work hours is to compare actual face-to-face teaching time to actual workplace engagement hours at other jobs (the 2080 that you cite). If we’re going to compare additional preparation and review hours (whatever that may include) as you are doing with teaching, then the 2080 is much higher in other types of work. When such a equitable comparison is made, teachers’ teaching time falls far short of 2080 hours. Your [false] comparison assumes that only teachers spend time outside the classroom in preparation for the classroom, and so you count those hours–well, nearly every other job also includes outside the workplace preparation (in time and money) but 2080 fails to account for that, and you failed to include it in the 2080.

    In essence, you were trying to compare the hours involved in the planting, care, and harvesting of the apples of teaching with JUST the hours involved the harvest of 2080 oranges elsewhere. Not an accurate nor meaningful comparison.

  12. Per Curiam,

    As much as we’d all like to pay based off of student achievement, it isn’t a valid option. It requires a mechanism for reliably measuring student achievement that accurately isolates and measure the value added by a single teacher to their student test scores. If you go by test scores alone you don’t truly capture value-added, and teachers are then in a position to rightfully argue such measures are biased, and frankly discriminatory. My old school’s 9th graders were the 4th highest (of 6) in math two years ago and failed to meet the benchmark or meet AYP. However, the year before the two feeder middle school eighth grade classes ranked 8th and 10th (of 10) in the district. We had the highest improvement rate for that particular grade in the district (mid 60% to high 70%) but were still punished by the accountability system. So who are the more effective teachers? The ones who can jump a class from 6th to 4th in a single year with the largest ESL and IEP populations in the district or the ones who inherit the top performing students and flatline? So I got punished for test scores outside of my teaching area for teaching in a school with a higher need student population. An additional consideration often overlooked in this accountability bandwagon is that such a system must work across all subject areas and measure each teacher only by the value-added achievement their students demonstrate within their subject area. Is it really the english teachers fault if their students don’t perform well in another subject? Is it the gym teacher’s responsibility to teach algebra? If these kinds of conditions aren’t met the accountability system simply isn’t a valid means of assessing teacher effectiveness.

    I’m also curious as to what economics or business class you took that deluded you to think a charter school program would be feasible in SD. The costs to initiate such an endeavor are prohibitive everywhere in the state with the exception of possibly Sioux Falls and Rapid City. There simply aren’t enough students to make it worthwhile, and if you factor in family traditions and loyalties to the hometown school, which I argue are often overlooked in education policy (I’ll present any school consolidation as evidence), a rural charter school is practically guaranteed to be less cost effective than it’s public counterpart. It will be overstaffed (if staffed with qualified individuals for each grade/subject) for comparatively low student enrollment. Consolidations are a cost-saving measure, and a rural charter school initiative effectively undermines the financial prudence of a consolidation. If you want to go the distance learning route, keep in mind that the MOOC movement and Khan Academy suffer from low completion and retention rates. Nothing has equally matched a classroom with a teacher in the room in those regards. Collectively the education and developmental psychology research into the effectiveness of those reforms is unfortunately dubious at best.

    Finally, to answer Rep. Verchio’s question. A couple of suggestions:
    1) Measure teacher effectiveness primarily at the local level by a combination of school administrator and peer teacher review. Student achievement should be a factor, but local control can more effectively account for value-added. (The reason why is that less meta-data on students needs to be collected at the state/national level to do so).
    2) A more robust teacher appraisal and training system needs to be in place. If teachers have the ability to peer-observe, mentor, and coach their classroom effectiveness is greatly enhanced and retention rates increase. Additionally, this assists with the previous point. This undertaking entails multiple observations and coaching sessions throughout the year, not a single annual exercise. Both are highly cost-effective for districts. The issue from a policy standpoint is administrators and teachers do not have time. Administrators are typically caught up in interventions with students and teachers typically do not have time in their teaching schedule to observe another teacher in the school day.
    3) The ACT should become the only standardized assessment used by the state. Students actually have an incentive to try on the exam, and the state doesn’t have to waste money developing an inferior assessment vehicle. As long as the political forces in the state can handle the inevitable drop in average ACT score for the state (from more students, typically the non-college bound, taking the exam who previously wouldn’t), it would be a cost effective measure. It’s being piloted in neighboring states, and while there isn’t anything similar for the lower grades, this is a no-brainer for high school student assessment.
    4) Consolidation. As much as nobody like it, larger populations of students in fewer schools are more cost-effective to educate. Fewer administrative and non-teachers are needed, fewer teachers are needed, and more teachers can have full loads in their field rather than have to cover courses outside of their certification.
    5) The current obsession with mandatory year-to-year progress from a statisticians standpoint is as morally bankrupt as it is intellectually stunted. The concepts of covariance and statistical error are notably absent in SD education policymaking, and it’s to the detriment to the state. Multi-year trends are largely ignored, and every year-to-year anomaly is scores becomes the next disaster saga that influences policymakers who fail to look at a larger picture.

    I couldn’t care less what SD decides to pay teachers. My college students get certified and have openings across the midwest that remain unfilled. They can all easily get jobs, and I don’t blame them for taking the best paying ones. Even accounting for cost-of-living and tax rates, the $5k-$12k differential in buying power always leaves SD behind. Do what you want to recruit in-state and from alternative certification, but keep in mind that attrition rates for new teachers are notoriously high in the profession, especially in rural districts.

  13. Amazing discussion. Simply put in the real world of supply and demand in a very favorable forgiving place to live like South Dakota, if we raise the salary of nearly any job we should see more job applicants. (A bar must surely be reached and we can find it.) Contrary to say paying three times the national average teacher pay to teach in Detroit or East LA or East St. Louis. Living conditions there just aren’t worth it.

  14. One other factor that I don’t know if has been discussed here is that in most rural districts there are limited if any job opportunities for the spouse of a teacher. Most households these days are dual income, and this is an important consideration when choosing where to teach.

    1. This is why education development should be balanced with economic development. The state government needs to work with the county and local governments including the school board to build everything evenly

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