PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — There’s an interesting thread in the annual report about graduates with education degrees from South Dakota’s public universities who have, or haven’t, taken education jobs in South Dakota.
The latest study, released earlier this month, showed many of those graduates didn’t go to work as teachers in South Dakota within the first year after graduation.
Many didn’t stay in the education field in South Dakota at all.
The report found 49.2 percent of the 2017 teaching graduates were working in South Dakota school districts in 2018. That number has bumped around a bit in the past five years, ranging from a low of 46.6 percent to a high of 52.3.
But the percentages have slowly, but steadily risen overall from the modern low of 28.6 percent in 2005.
An education offical for the South Dakota Board of Regents wondered Monday whether pay might be the barrier.
South Dakota’s average salaries for teachers have been the nation’s lowest or nearly so for many years.
The regents, who govern South Dakota’s public higher-education campuses, received the report earlier this month.
South Dakota’s 149 public school districts have about 9,500 classroom teachers.
The average teacher salary trickled along during much of the past decade, from $37,917 for the 2008-2009 academic year, up to $42.025 for 2015-2016. A blue-ribbon task force appointed by then-Governor Dennis Daugaard in 2015 set a target of $48,000.
There was a somewhat significant bump in 2016-2017, up to $46,922. That came after the Legislature adopted a half-cent increase in the state sales tax to pay for property-tax relief and higher teacher salaries. But the next year saw the raise slow again, to $47,631.
Jay Perry is the regents’ interim vice president for academic affairs. He presented the summary Monday to the South Dakota Board of Education Standards that oversees public K-12 schools throughout the state.
Perry said public schools in South Dakota paid teachers less on average than the six states around South Dakota and “a lot” of South Dakota’s education majors have chosen jobs outside education.
Meanwhile South Dakota’s public universities have been running their education training programs at capacity, he said.
“I look at this and I’m a little bit alarmed about what this means for our teaching pool moving forward,” Perry told the standards board members during their meeting Brookings. “It’s something I thought you should all be aware of.”
Kay Schallenkamp, a former president at Black Hills State University who now serves on the standards board, said it “is a significant public policy issue for the state.”
“We have the teachers but they’re not going into teaching as a career. That’s unfortunate,” Schallenkamp said.
Responded Perry: “It is very much a public policy issue.” He said there “must be a broader discussion among policy-makers in the state” and people need to keep policy-makers’ attention on it.
The meeting audio was live-streamed by sd.net. State Education Secretary Ben Jones said he would get “apple to apple numbers” for 2020. Jacqueline Sly, a former legislator from Rapid City who serves on the standards board, asked for other states’ data too. She was a co-chair of the blue-ribbon task force.
Another standards board member, Gopal Vyas of Mitchell, said “the best country in the world” doesn’t pay its teachers enough.
“It just boggles my mind,” Vyas said, noting that many states face the same hurdle. “We need to do something about it,” he said.
Schallenkamp said teachers are respected in other countries and held in esteem. “It has to be very degrading for teachers today,” she said.
Five of South Dakota’s public universities offer teaching majors: Black Hills State in Spearfish, Dakota State in Madison, University of South Dakota at Vermillion, South Dakota State in Brookings and Northern State at Aberdeen.
There’s also this to consider: The baseline average salary in South Dakota for a teacher with zero years of experience hasn’t been a path to riches.
Those numbers followed the general pattern of slight raises, interrupted once by a larger increase, according to the South Dakota Department of Education:
Of the 149 districts, 48 paid $40,000 or more to a first-year teacher in 2018-2019:
Dakota Valley $41,250
Eagle Butte $45,855
Elk Point-Jefferson $40,100
Oglala Lakota County $44,489
Rapid City $40,000
Sioux Valley $40,000
Timber Lake $44,300
Todd County $43,500
West Central $41,000
Source: S.D. Dept. Of Education. https://doe.sd.gov/data/tables/Teacher-Salary.aspx