|SD State Rep Greenfield|
Markets? What Do They Know?
(photo from sodakliberty.com)
That last part is pretty tough to take seriously--if it isn't laughable altogether--because of its ego-centric assumption that our surrounding states compare unfavorably to South Dakota when it comes to lifestyle advantages. South Dakota has a lot of great things going for it, but that hasn't made us much of a magnet for people who can accept some of the lowest wages in the country in exchange for "clean air and healthy living," as Greenfield put it. More to the point, Greenfield can't possibly quantify the market value of our great lifestyle as a complement to the lowest teacher pay in the country. The whole idea is just plain absurd.
More troubling is the idea that just because there's a national teacher shortage, South Dakota shouldn't make every effort to raise wages to competitive levels. As Greenfield put it last week in her comments to a recent KELO-TV story on the subject, "we cannot attract people who do not exist." She was retorting to some comments made on the KELO site by my good friend Cory Heidelberger, whose Dakota Free Press remains the best political blog in South Dakota. Greenfield's exasperation about how to deal with the matter is understandable, but she misses the point about how South Dakota must respond to a marketplace that has suddenly put a premium on the shrinking supply of teachers.
By refusing to jump into the fray of bidding higher for a shortage of teachers, as Greenfield would have it, South Dakota is effectively abandoning that market altogether. Greenfield's constituents in the farm commodity-driven economy of the district she represents understand what it means to be forced to bid higher in a bull market when short supplies are much in demand.
|Yep, Our Lifestyle Will Sure Bridge These Gaps|
Could We Be Any More Self-Delusional?
(photo from www.argusleader.com)
South Dakota cannot simply walk away from this market under the delusion that its lifestyle is enough to attract quality teachers. Not to denigrate teachers by calling them a commodity, but to give an example of how market reality can bite, General Mills and other food processors can't stop buying wheat at premium prices during a bad crop year unless they want to go out of business altogether. We're in the same boat in SD. We just have to accept the reality of the market and pay up. I did this in real life for twenty years, both in the trading pits in Chicago and as a broker out here. Believe me, it's no fun when markets get away from you on the upside and you have to pay more than you'd like--but that's just the way it is.
Meantime, there is a significant advantage built into "the way it is." If the laws of supply and demand apply to the teacher supply situation, and there's no reason to believe they won't, higher wages will likely result in more people entering the profession in the first place, increasing the pool of qualified teachers and doing much to alleviate this all too obvious shortage we're struggling with.
We can pretend our lifestyle advantages will make up the difference when our salaries are woefully uncompetitive, or we can face facts.