As if being the state with the lowest-paid teachers in the United States isn't embarrassing enough, we South Dakotans should be concerned about how teacher salaries here compare with those of our bordering states. Consider, SD teachers average $39K/year. Now check out the following: In WY, teachers make $58k/yr. In MT it's $50k/yr; in ND it's $47k/yr, in MN it's $56k/yr, in IA it's $51k/yr and in NE it's $48k/yr. You can see this graphically, along with some commentary and analysis at: http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/wp/2013/12/15/how-much-teachers-get-paid-state-by-state/ In general, comparisons that include SD vs. say, NY or CA are pretty much meaningless, given so many economic and location-specific differences. But comparing us to our immediate neighbors is more apple to apple-like . . . and these numbers should be some cause for concern.
On the purely economic face of it, we have to assume that top graduates from education departments in the region are avoiding careers in South Dakota out of hand. This is not to denigrate the many outstanding and dedicated young teachers that begin their careers here. I know, at least anecdotally, having been married to a public school teacher for nearly 4 decades now, that many of these fine young professionals are in South Dakota for personal and family reasons. But bright young graduates who have no particular ties to South Dakota are probably ignoring opportunities here, considering they're so financially limited. More tellingly, given the contrasting salaries noted above, those who love the lifestyle of the northern Plains and the Rockies need only go to a nearby state and get the benefits of both the lifestyle and a much handsomer salary for doing the same work as they'd do in South Dakota.
This should be worrisome to the forward thinkers who manage our state and its governmental and business affairs. I note the colossal failure of Governor Daugaard's recruitment efforts via headhunting agencies with a national reach and wonder if the Governor's hired recruiters had trouble overcoming the data about our lowest-paid-in-the-country teachers when making their pitches to potential emigres into South Dakota. From a purely public relations standpoint, this kind of information is nasty stuff. I admire Governor Daugaard's efforts aimed at economic development but wonder if he and his staff aren't overlooking, if not altogether ignoring, a major component of the state's infrastructure--the quality of its professional educators--when touting the benefits of life and work in South Dakota. As of now, I think it's a liability, and I challenge Governor Daugaard to commit the remainder of his time in office into converting it to an asset.