Northern Valley Beacon

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Wednesday, December 07, 2005


Fact: South Dakota does not value education

South Dakota has enjoyed the status of being 51st in the nation in teachers' pay. For years it scrambled hard with other states like Mississippi for the distinction, but for the last ten years or so, it has had a lock on the position. It is a distinction conferred by at least three organizations that keep track of such matters: the U.S. Dept. of Education, the National Education Association, and the American Federation of Teachers. Other organizations also rank South Dakota last, but all of the organizations get their data from the same public records.

The South Dakota state higher education system also ranks last in what it pays professors. That statistic does not get as much publicity, but it contributes to a consistent pattern.

What does it signify to pay teachers the least in the nation? It signifies what the people value. Money is not everything, but where people put their money expresss the things they value. Few people will outwardly say that they could not give a rusty dog turd for education other than it keeps the kids out of their hair during the day. Part of the national charade is to support education as the great democratizer and an essential component of informed self-governance. South Dakota's perennial bottom-ranking for what it pays teachers speaks louder than 700,000 flapping lips chanting odes to education. The fact is that South Dakotans do not like teachers and could not care much less about education.

Whenever the bottom ranking comes up, the cliche choir assembles and begins its chant justifying the low teacher pay in South Dakota

While South Dakota loves to cite that it is a place that has few of the problems that urban areas do, it does have many of the problems that backward rural areas do. One of those problems is that a significant majority of people do not in fact support education. They regard education only as tax burden imposed on them by "liberals."

For good teachers who want better pay and better working conditions, the solution is obvious: find a job in a place where education is actually valued.

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