Monday, February 9, 2015

A Blue Ribbon Task Force On Teachers And Students? We Don't Need No Stinkin' Blue Ribbon Task Force On Teachers And Students

     Apparently our Governor Dennis Daugaard hasn't been paying much attention to the
How We Stack Up In Spending
No. 41, To Be Exact, And Dead Last In Our Region
(source:  The U.S Census Bureau, 2014)
public utterances of our state's school officials.  
At their planning committee meeting last August, some South Dakota legislators were hearing phrases from school officials throughout the state about the teacher shortage. Phrases coming from our professional educators ("crisis in the classroom,"  "extremely difficult to recruit and retain teachers," "we're not enticing our best and brightest," . . . it goes on) were the stuff of desperation. It's discouraging that Daugaard, well into his fifth year in office, is finally getting around to addressing the crisis and even more disheartening to get the news that he's assigning--woo hoo--a task force (and not just an ordinary task force, but a "blue ribbon" task force at that) to study the problem. The Governor claims that "there are still too many questions that need to be answered," but that's just a delaying tactic for kicking the can forward into the 2016 legislative session.

     For one thing, the three questions he poses are either irrelvant or academic. Daugaard wants to know where "shortages are occurring," which shows that he hasn't been listening.  As Brookings School Superintendent Roger DeGroot told the legislative planning committee last Summer, geographically-specific shortages aren't "the case anymore." Daugaard also wants to know why many school reserve funds are increasing, without specifiying which districts he's targeting and by how much those reserves are going up.  In any event, given that South Dakota has to come up with around $90 million to raise our 9,000+ teacher salaries to levels that are still slightly behind the average of our bordering neighbors, there's no way that increasing district reserves could be whittled down to match that number.  
     And for another, while we're on the matter of salaries, Daugaard also has it wrong that there are twelve other states that spend less per pupil yet pay higher salaries. The number of states that spend less per pupil is nine, per the U.S. Census Bureau's most recent data, published last Spring.  That point isn't of much relevance anyway, as national comparisons are less meaningful than regional ones.  And when it comes to regional comparisons, South Dakota is dead last among our bordering neighbors, and by a mile.  On per-pupil spending, we're 41st, way behind Montana at 30th, and much further behind the rest, which rank between 19th and 25th in per pupil spending, the only exception being Wyoming, which ranks an astounding 5th.  And when it comes to salaries, South Dakota's feeble $39,000/year average is so far behind the rest of our competing neighbors that I'm surprised anybody in this part of the United States chooses to teach
     Daugaard needs a task force to study the obvious like we all need a hole-in-the-head.  My good friend Cory Heidelberger over at Madville Times cheekily lists at least 10 education-financing "task forces" that South Dakota has launched in the past 17 years and they've accomplished zip. The net result is this crisis level of teacher shortages.  What Daugaard is putting off until next year is the tough decision on where to find the bucks to bring our teacher salaries into a competitive range. This task force idea is a timid response to a situation that demands resolute vision and action.  Daugaard's cautious, caretaking ways won't cut it.  We don't need more information, we need a plan.

What We Pay Our Teachers
Daugaard Needs A Task Force To Figure Out There's A Problem?
(graphic from The Washington Post)


  1. Your comments are right on. You can publish this or not, but I saw on twitter a comment credited to Sen. Ted Cruz when he was critisizing Pres. Obama's plan for the free Community Colleges. When you educate a person a little they become a Democrat. (I got a chuckle). Also a comment on Gov. Rick Perry's plan to do away with critical thinking in Texas schools. Don't want these kids to think too much. This is just South Dakota's version of don't educate too much.

  2. The report from most task forces is known before the group is appointed.


  3. Song by Pink Floyd

    We don't need no education
    We don't need no thought control
    No dark sarcasm in the classroom
    Teachers leave them kids alone
    Hey! teachers! leave the kids alone!
    All in all you're just another brick in the wall.
    All in all you're just another brick in the wall

  4. This is a politician's stall move. Remember the outcry about the problems with the dramatic decrease in deer in elk population in SD? Instead of holding GF&P (campaign donating) officials responsible? Daugaard opted for the lengthy and expensive study to determine what was wrong with our game management (a job GF&P officials are supposedly experts on). This pacified the masses and allowed his cronies to escape responsibility for failing at their job.

  5. The reasons for some schools trying to build back some reserves is more than likely preparing for when the fund is reduced again or when it become near zero and schools need to cover the state's choices.