SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — Days before school starts, school districts across South Dakota are searching for more teachers.
Statewide there are 120 open teaching positions, up 50 from this same time last year. Part of the reason there’s so many extra teaching jobs available is many more recent college graduates aren’t staying in South Dakota.
This week, the South Dakota Board of Regents reported data for 2020 graduates at the five teacher education programs in the public university system (Black Hills State, Dakota State, Northern State, South Dakota State and University of South Dakota). The BOR report said there was “A slight decrease was recorded in the number of graduates placed in the state one year after graduation, with 2.0% less graduates in 2020 placed in state than 2019 graduates. However, the first year placement rate remains consistent with those recorded over the last five years.”
For 2020 teacher education graduates, 46.5% of all university system graduates found a job in a South Dakota school district, which is the lowest number since 2013 and down from 48.4% in 2019.
The BOR report says a decade ago, only about one third of university system graduates found work at in-state school districts. The report suggests the trend is “suggestive of a changing K-12 teaching labor market in South Dakota.”
In the graph above, you can see the percent of highest percent of first-year placement rate for a South Dakota school district. Dakota State had the highest rate at 65.7%, Northern State was at 58.1%, Black Hills State at 45.9%, USD at 41.7% and SDSU had the lowest at 38.3%.
Mark Hawkes, a DSU professor and Interim Dean of the College of Education, said there’s a generational shift in teaching openings in South Dakota which is why so many DSU students have been finding work inside the state.
“Through the summer, we get a number of requests from superintendents asking if we have a teacher for this subject at this age level,” said Hawks, who has been at DSU for 23 years. “We like to develop partnerships that are anchored in out state.”
Hawks said schools and communities are changing along with the way people engage after the COVID-19 pandemic. He said DSU’s program prepares teachers for future classrooms embracing technology.
“Many of our students are so well received in the workplace as they leave our intuition with a technology-education endorsement,” Hawks said. “Those students are prepared to take on those roles — remoted instructor, class instructor and any variation in between that requires them to engage students with a variety of tools available to them.”
According to a American Community Survey of the teacher labor force in the upper Midwest, South Dakota ranks the lowest of seven adjoining states in average teacher pay at $46,221 per year in 2019. Minnesota is No. 1 with an average pay of $57,335 and Iowa is second with $51,335.
Hawks said the BOR does a good job of supporting DSU’s education programs and outreach. He called the state’s teacher salary benefits “competitive” with neighboring states.
“South Dakota, quality of life, opportunities, things you grew up loving, how is that a hard sell?” Hawks said. “Dakota State University is the state’s oldest teacher preparation institution, since 1881. We’ve had a chance to do this right and do it well.”
Jay Trenhaile, the South Dakota State professor and College of Education and Human Sciences director, did not point to teacher pay as the main reason for SDSU’s low in-state placement rate.
In an email to KELOLAND News, Trenhaile said the nature of SDSU’s makeup and nearby location to Minnesota, the school attracts “more out-of-state students who then return home to accept teaching positions.”
He also said Agriculture Education is one of SDSU’s larger programs and there are not many positions available in South Dakota.
KELOLAND’s Don Jorgensen will have an Eye on KELOLAND looking at teacher pay in South Dakota on Monday.