Teacher shortages could be due to low income and high cost of living

Published: Aug. 15, 2023 at 8:51 AM MDT
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RAPID CITY, S.D. (KEVN) - The first day of school may be approaching across the state, but that doesn’t mean school districts are completely prepared. According to the secretary of education for the state of South Dakota, by the end of summer the state could still be short 130 to 180 teaching positions, and people are starting to wonder how their children will be able to get the education they need to succeed.

As of Monday, the Rapid City Area School district has more than 140 open positions, including bus drivers and cafeteria staff, but most openings in the district are for paraprofessionals and licensed teachers.

“I think education, public education, has taken a hit in community respect and value maybe in the past decade, and it’s kind of coming to a head right now,” said Nicole Swigart, superintendent of Rapid City Area Schools.

Fewer people are entering the education field, and Swigart believes salary plays a role.

“I think there’s so many more opportunities to study if they go to college, and many more opportunities that even if you have a college degree in education, that you can do something other than teach. Salary. It does come down to that for some people. We also live in a community that is very expensive to live in, we recognize that. Housing here is a challenge for some people, and we have had people accept jobs and then turn them down when they couldn’t find housing,” Swigart continued.

According to the department of education, for the 2021-22 school year, Rapid City Area School district teachers made on average $40,000 per year before taxes. Meanwhile, according to 247wallstreet.com, Pennington County has a cost of living of more than $35,000 for a single adult.

“I have seen studies done on the cost of living, compared to teacher compensation, moving us anywhere from, like right now you say probably 49th, we may be a little higher than that. But if you figure in the rest, that could jump to as high as 39th or even a little bit higher than that. Its historically been a little lower in South Dakota over the years, and I’m not sure how to answer that question other than to say that has been the going rate for educators in the state,” said Joseph Graves, secretary of education for the state of South Dakota.

As of August 1, Rapid City Area School district had 40 teaching positions open, and are offering bonuses for hard to fill positions, but Swigart says when working with taxpayer money, they need to be as diligent as possible.