Now I could say we don't need some egghead elitist telling us what South Dakota schools need. But I would also have a personality meltdown if I took that line. Professor Wolkoff cites a fact I myself cited yesterday (and which my commenters frequently cite as well): all of South Dakota's wages are in the tank. Wolkoff concludes therefore that in-state market forces won't pull good teachers away from teaching.
Wolkoff also addresses out-of-state wage competition: he finds that 91% of teachers stay in teaching in state from year to year (87% stay at their current school; 4% take a job at another SD school district). Only 9% either leave to teach in another state or quit teaching all together.
I'm not an expert on these numbers, but they compare fairly well with the "quits" rate for education nationwide. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics tells me that the annual voluntary turnover rate in "educational services" was 11.5% in 2007, and has ranged between 10.9% and 12.5% this decade. Compare that to the annual quits rate in financial activities (18.5%), health care and social assistance (18.8%), or retail (no annual average given, but the monthly rates add up to well over 25%).
I've said we have to focus on offering teachers wages that compete with the offers they can get across the border. Wolkoff's numbers say that even if we haven't been competitive with Minnesota and Wyoming, we've still been able to fill all of our positions.
Now before I decide I've been wrong for all these years arguing that we need to pay teachers more, let's look at the weaknesses in Professor Wolkoff's testimony:
- Wolkoff admits he hasn't spoken to any administrators in South Dakota. He says we can't let anecdotal evidence skew our view of the big picture.
- Wolkoff also doesn't look ahead: Do we have enough applicants to fill the coming retirement boom? Do we have enough aspiring teachers in-state to fill those positions, or will we need to import talent from out of state?
Pierre doesn't think schools need more money. The folks making education happen every day seem to think otherwise.