Sunday, May 3, 2015

In Search of Teachers

Much has been said about the teacher shortage that is happening in South Dakota, and not just by me.  This shortage has some in Pierre worried; unfortunately, the Governor is one of those that doesn't seem to concerned.  Yes, he has set up another panel to study the problem, despite that there was one already done by a bi-partisan group of legislative members last year.  

This problem will not be solved overnight or with some television's ads trying to convince teachers to move here because at least they will get paid more here than on Mars (maybe).  Cindy Long with NEA Today reported that students all across the United States are turning away from teaching as a career option.
The report shows that only 5 percent (89,347 students) of the nearly 1.85 million 2014 U.S. high school graduates who took the ACT® test said they intended to pursue a career as an educator—either as a teacher, counselor or administrator. Both the percentage and number have steadily dropped each year since 2010, when 7 percent of graduates (106,659 students) planned an education major.
Now before Daugaard and others can say, "See, this is not a South Dakota problem.  Other states are having a tough time too.  There is no reason to increase funding!"  It is time for the state to proactive.  Something that this is not always known for.

At Black Hills State, they are a bit concerned too about the shortage.  Jake Nordbye writes on the BHSU site, 
For example, in the Todd County school district there are currently 38 open teaching positions. Thirty-eight is an astronomical number. Traditionally, South Dakota schools have most of their teaching positions filled by the end of May....
The article points to a need to get caught up and we are failing while other states jump way ahead of us.
“Without a major effort we’ll never get caught up,” Monson said, adding that a recent study showed that a South Dakota teacher’s salary has the same buying power as it did in 1969. Low salaries for teachers were one of the main issues cited for the shrinking teacher pool. Monson noted since the 1999-2000 school year Wyoming raised teacher pay by 24 percent, North Dakota 15 percent and Nebraska seven percent. During that same time period South Dakota decreased salaries by 0.6 percent. South Dakota also ranks last in the nation in average teacher pay. 
The article then reminds us the importance of good teachers in the classroom.  
Children living in the United States have the right to a free public education. And the Constitution requires that all kids be given equal educational opportunity no matter what their race, ethnic background, religion, or sex, or whether they are rich or poor, citizen or non-citizen. If our students are lacking competent, well-trained professionals in South Dakota’s classrooms, we are denying them that right, and that’s more than just a national embarrassment, it’s negligence. 
We will be seeing you, Education Blue Ribbon Panel, in June. 


  1. Mike, you point out that there have been studies to show the shortage problem (and the low-pay reason for that shortage). So what's the solution? What new are you adding to the conversation? So far (from one meeting I attended and a second I heard reports from), the EBRP has tried to focus on the question of solutions. In that way, I do see this panel's work as different form past studies and task forces.

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  3. I hope that you are right with the idea of it trying to be different, but I have offered a few suggestions in the past. Suggestion 1 is related to the funding: The state government must be willing to look for an additional money stream to increase funding for teachers and get the pay levels up compared to other states. If we keep suggesting that we simply don't have the money and then pay an ad company 3 million dollars to run a Mars ad, we are not showing respect toward the profession. I thought Bernie Hunhoff's idea of a corporate tax was a good place to start. Suggestion 2- Provide ways for teachers to improve their skills without relaying on dictated education concepts. My suggestion is to allow teachers to take college classes online for the same price that high school students take now ($40 a credit). Don't limit it to education classes, but instead open it up to any classes. Suggestion 3: The Governor needs to actively show support for the public education teacher and not focus on playing a blame game with the profession. The stunt with O'Gorman shows how out of touch he is. This Governor and many others do the obligatory teacher of the year stuff, but that is about it. He can use his public persona to begin showing that the profession is a worthy profession and that can help begin to change the public perception. I have not been able to attend any meeting yet, but will be at the one in Sioux Falls in June. I am not worried about the panel's efforts, it is the Governor's reaction when he hears that they will need to raise taxes to increase funding for education.