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South Dakota Teachers Leaving The Profession

February 7, 2014, 6:00 PM by Don Jorgensen

South Dakota Teachers Leaving The Profession

Does it pay to be a teacher in South Dakota? That's a hot topic in Pierre as lawmakers look at funding education.

South Dakota ranks near the bottom when it comes to teacher pay, and now some educators are leaving the profession for higher paying jobs.

There are a few bills in the South Dakota Legislature that would boost education funding. One would increase it by 3.8 percent. But even that's not enough for guys like Josh Eggers, who is going to leave his job teaching band in Hamlin after 13 years.

"The bottom line is the money," Eggers said.

Eggers, who has a wife and two young children to support, says he can't provide for his family on what he's paid.

"We qualify for, we don't take, but we qualify for food stamps; I'm an educator in South Dakota," Eggers said.

At the end of the year, Eggers is leaving teaching to become a truck driver. He's not the only teacher who is calling it quits because of low pay.

Harrisburg Superintendent Jim Holbeck says he's heard from other superintendents in the state who are losing good teachers because of low pay. 

Replacing those teachers is becoming more difficult because sometimes a school district will only get one applicant, if that.

"They hired the only person that they could either talk into applying or applied and they are hiring people they know could have done better in other years," Holbeck said.

Many feel that has a lasting impact on the quality of education our students are getting. According to a recent survey, nearly three quarters of the superintendents in the state indicated they filled open teaching positions with applicants who were less qualified than they had hoped to find.

But for teachers like Eggers, it just made sense for him to leave the profession.

"I'm a 36-year-old educator with a bachelor's degree in music and a master degree too, and I'm going to go to North Dakota and use a CDL I got when I was 19 and make more money with that," Eggers said.

Eggers says he loves teaching and hopes to one day return to the profession.

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