Between the Lines

Between the Lines By David Lias Some of the latest news to come from the South Dakota Education Association is a dire warning that low teacher pay in the state is driving educators away.

South Dakota teachers are finding that other parts of the nation, even neighboring states apparently, are offering greener pastures to educators.

The trend is, naturally, disappointing. Is it a cause for alarm, however?

The March issue of the South Dakota Business Review notes that South Dakota has ranked 50th in the average annual pay series published by the U.S. Department of Labor since this data was first collected in the late 1960s.

This article isn't talking about just teacher pay. It's talking about average annual pay in all occupations.

In 1997, the average annual pay in South Dakota was $21,645, which was 29 percent below the U.S. average of $30,336.

While we have no statistics for state's average annual pay in 2000, we do know what several South Dakota school districts will be paying educators in the 2000-2001 school year.

The numbers aren't close to the U.S. average pay of three years ago. But they are least equal to, and in many cases exceed, that 1997 state average, which apparently indicates that teachers, while making less than their peers in other states, have made some pay gains in the past couple years here.

Here's a quick snapshot of what teachers in various South Dakota districts will make next school year:


* Menno: Base increase of $1,200. Schedule base is $21,500, maximum scheduled salary is $32,650. Returning staff receive base increase plus step. Steps range from $380 to $400.

The following are the second or third year salaries of multi-year agreements:


* Alcester-Hudson: Base increase of $1,100. Schedule base is $22,050, maximum scheduled salary is $35,550. Returning staff frozen on 1998-99 step.


* Andes Central: Base increase of $735. Schedule base is $21,737, maximum scheduled salary is $33,715. Returning staff frozen on 1999-2000 step.


* Baltic: Base increase of $700. Hiring schedule base is $21,050. Returning staff receive a 5.25 percent increase in salary.


* Beresford: Base increase of $600. Schedule base is $21,800, maximum scheduled salary is $40,275. Returning staff receive $1,100.


* Brandon Valley: Base increase of $820. Hiring schedule base is $23,320. Returning staff receive 4.28 percent increase in salary.


* Bridgewater: Base increase of $400. Hiring schedule base is $20,200. Returning staff receive across the board increase of $800. Board contribution to health insurance increased $10 per month from $140 to $150.


* Lennox: Second year of a three year agreement. The board opened negotiations and gave another $500 increase on top of the $1,100 previously agreed to for a $1,600 raise for returning teachers.


* Yankton: Base increase of $780. Base salary is $24,100. No salary schedule. Returning staff receive $1,000 increase.

Teachers may be leaving the state to work elsewhere, but it's not time to panic yet.

Some of the same rules that come into play in a market economy may have a positive effect on teacher pay.

Employers demand workers because they make a contribution in the production of goods and services.

Wages provide both information and incentives to both employers and employees.

High wages in a particular job lead employers to hire less labor and substitute other inputs for the high-priced labor. High wages give workers an incentive to supply more labor. Low wages lead employers to hire more labor and for workers to supply less. (The South Dakota Wage Study: State Differences in Average Annual Pay).

This may mean that eventually, if the demand for teachers grows in South Dakota, they will hopefully be offered more pay. That extra pay may come with a precise caveat, however: teachers will be asked to do more. That's not an unreasonable request. It's what happens in other segments of the work environment in South Dakota.

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