It Doesn't Pay to Teach in South Dakota

The state trails the nation in teacher salary
By Luke Roney,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 8, 2016 8:11 AM CST

(Newser) – Jessica Ries works at a tux shop. Lori Brandt covers the desk at a Super 8 motel. Jared Baumann works for a moving company. What do they have in common? They're also all teachers in South Dakota, which pays its teachers less than any state in the union—making holding a second (or third) job par for the course for educators, the AP reports. That means that qualified teachers are looking for jobs elsewhere, one school board president says. "When you can make another thousand dollars a month as an experienced teacher, it's probably worth looking at a place in Minnesota," he says. Average teacher pay in the state in 2013-14 was $40,023, nearly $12,000 less than the average teacher salary in the six states that border it.

Brandt has been teaching for 31 years and makes $42,000—that's less than her son makes working at a cheese factory, she tells the AP. Gov. Dennis Daugaard wants a half-cent sales tax increase to bump the average teacher pay to $48,500 (which would make the state competitive with North Dakota); however, top Republicans have said that's unlikely. One of them says schools may need to raid their reserves to boost teacher pay, or state aid could be increased. Meanwhile, says Ries, whose own plans to have kids are on hold til she and her husband are on firmer financial ground, "We're not people who spend money on super nice things and then don't have enough money to pay our bills. We don't have enough money to just live, not live out of our means." (Read more South Dakota stories.)

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