South Dakota teachers are among lowest paid in US - KSFY News - Sioux Falls, SD News, Weather, Sports

South Dakota teachers are among lowest paid in US

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South Dakota's teacher's are among the lowest paid in the country.

Their starting salary is about $29,000, that is $6,500 less than the national average.

State Senator Chuck Welke said this disparity is leading the state down a dangerous path, "We heard from colleges and universities that fewer and fewer kids are going into the education studies…and we know a lot of them are getting to the age of retirement. So we think if we don't do something before long, we may have a major crisis on our hands, because we won't have teachers."

Welke participated in a summer study in which superintendents statewide said pay is one of the major reasons they have a hard time recruiting and keeping good teachers.

KSFY News spoke with the Superintendent of the West Central School District who can relate with this survey.

He said over the past five years applicants have been down.

We also found out that many who choose to stick it out as teachers - are taking second jobs.

Superintendent Jeff Danielsen said low pay is starting to impact how many teachers South Dakota districts have, "I think part of the reason why we don't get as many into the pipeline to begin with is because they look at the base pay and they maybe choose something else."

His thoughts are backed by a recent survey in which South Dakota Superintendents say they are struggling to find quality teachers.

And they blame the pay.

"South Dakota has typically been last in the nation for teacher pay and it sure would be nice if we took a little more initiative and went after addressing that." Danielsen said.

Because they are paid so little, many teachers have to find a second job and work during the summer to make ends meet.

"I spent four years and $40,000 deciding I'm going to be a teacher and change the world and it was a little disheartening after the first year and you go and you file taxes and you find out you made more at your second job." Said Michele Kelzer.

She taught high school English for three years.

The whole time she had a second job.

She remembers the moment she figured out she couldn't make it work.

"When my mentor, who was across the way from me, I asked, 'I just have to know, how do you move up in this field?' And she goes, 'Well, I have 13 years teaching experience, I have my masters, I'm at $30,000.' And I think that's when my heart just sank." Kelzer said.

On top of the low pay, Kelzer and Superintendent Danielsen agree that teachers do not get the summer off - contrary to popular belief.

Danielsen said teachers are working other jobs, training, and preparing for the next school year during those summer months.

Senator Welke also said South Dakotans working in many fields have to take second jobs to make ends meet, but points to the expense teachers go to to get a 4-year degree and the influence they have on our children.

Several bills aimed at paying teachers more have already been shot down this legislative session.

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