Here in South Dakota, we are regularly reminded that we are unkind to our teachers (in comparison with the treatment that teachers in other states receive).
Based on the 2007 – 2008 numbers from the NEA, South Dakota paid an average of $36,674 to its teachers, placing it dead last in the nation (and $4,000 behind North Dakota).
Let’s do a bit of calculating here. If a teacher spends about 180 days in school during the school year with 8 hours per day, that would give us a total of 1440 hours. To make this easy on us, let’s round it up to 1560 hours to cover some long days, in-service days, etc. Now we have a number which is precisely three quarters of the standard number of work hours in a year (2080).
Working from that, let us divide $36,674 by .75 to get a calendar-adjusted salary for these teachers. We end up with $48, 899.
If we compare this with the median income of a single-earner South Dakota household in 2007 (which was $31,605) it would appear that teachers may not be doing so poorly here after all.
A few things to remember with all of this.
- The number of hours an individual teacher works in a year may vary greatly from the number above, but the number seems reasonable for a working average.
- Teachers are not the only ones who have to get certifications or work on additional degrees while holding down their jobs. This is very common for many (if not most) full-time jobs. Some costs are carried by employers and some by the employee (this is true across industries).
- Teachers are also not alone when it comes to taking work home to complete on the evenings and weekends.
- Not all teachers get part-time jobs during the summer, but the opportunity is definitely there. For those who choose not to work during the summers, they have made that decision to not receive additional income.
- Salaries do (and should) vary based on the cost of living within particular regions. For it to be otherwise is to ignore the realities of regional economic differences.
- I am not saying that we should necessarily pay teachers more or less based on any of this. I am saying that we should keep things in perspective.