South Dakota must make an effort to pay teachers

Hallie Thomas

Hallie Thomas

Last week the South Dakota state legislature closed with mixed results for those of us interested in education as $15.1 mllion dollars were approved for the schools of South Dakota, but nothing was given to the state’s teachers.

This doesn’t surprise me. The powers that be seem to believe that teaching is a profession that is meant to be thankless. I, myself, attended a high school where most of my teachers were forced to scramble for summer jobs more fervently than their students. My high school English teacher, Mr. John Kinder, was an example.

A teacher for over 31 years, he was always in a mad rush come springtime, to find summer employment. A short man with a quick wit and a cynical gleam in his squinty eyes, he was everyone’s hero. He had not only taught my classmates and I, but most of my classmates’ parents as well.

He sourly disapproved of two things: sitting with your feet in the aisle and 19th century English poetry. He was famous for stopping in the middle of class to threaten us with a ball pien hammer, and one year a student gave him such a hammer for Christmas.

He taught hundreds of students between the years 1969 and 2000. When he retired he was making $28,000 a year. He and his wife, Margaret, supplemented his meager teacher’s salary with odd jobs in the summer.

From painting houses to maintaining national parks, Mr. Kinder did what he could to do what he loved.

But for every Mr. Kinder, there are dozens more not as willing to make such a sacrifice. These teachers are tempted to apply for positions further away with higher salaries and better benefits.

Every year there seem to be more and more of these teachers.

Another measure that was struck down was a proposal to reimburse college grads that stay in South Dakota for a period of time. This could have helped to attract teachers to stay in the state.

The failure of this bill and the refusal of the legislature to raise teachers salaries will, in my opinion, make the Mr. Kinders of this world few and far between.

Reach Hallie Thomas at [email protected].