Leaders are examining how South Dakota can improve public education. Tuesday lawmakers and education stakeholders on the Blue Ribbon Task Force met in Pierre to review the ways tax dollars fuel education and how the state compares to its neighbors when funding schools and teachers.
South Dakota has an issue with teacher salaries. That’s the position of a senior analyst with the Education Commission of the States.
Michael Griffith says South Dakota ranks in the 30s on spending per student but the state is consistently last when it comes to teacher pay – even when it’s adjusted based on other salaries in the state.
“You have a very unique situation here: that your teachers are paid low and it does not appear to be directly a result of your per-pupil allotment,” Griffith says. “So there’s other things there that I think you’ve got to research and find out. Is it teacher aids? Is it your special ed costs? Is it something else that none of us are thinking of? I think you really need to dig into that.”
Griffith says no factor he examined is a simple, clear cause for low teacher salaries. The analyst says South Dakota has a higher number of teachers than average, but it compares to neighboring states. Griffith says South Dakota has slightly above-average spending on administration and slightly below average spending on instructional costs. He also says the schools have larger-than-average reserve funds.
South Dakota State Senator Deb Soholt co-chairs the Blue Ribbon Task Force on Teachers and Students. She says the summer’s series of meetings is part of a complex process to evaluate public education.
“Certainly just salaries make a difference, but then also what are some of the other variables that make a difference in relationship to teacher pipeline? And what are we struggling with in South Dakota but then what is everyone struggling with?” Soholt says. “So isn’t just for teaching; some of it is some of the workforce, workforce of South Dakota, but then some is very specific to the education field, so we’re going to have experts that will help us to understand that for South Dakota."
More than two dozen people sit on the Blue Ribbon Task Force examining education. The panel meets again in August, September and October before making recommendations for the 2016 legislative session.
View slides from Griffith's presentation on SD Education Expenditures & Teacher Salaries at this link.