It is difficult to ignore the economic struggle that our country is in at the moment. Every time someone turns on the news, there is something about the economy to make us all glad that we’re college students and not yet out in the work force. With Dakota State University’s high placement record and South Dakota’s relatively low unemployment rate, it seems as though there is nothing in the world to fear. This may change with a proposed bill by the new governor that could lower the salaries of K-12 schools by 5% to 10%.
What does this mean, exactly? Well, a decrease in funds will likely mean a decrease in hiring. Schools will try to keep their current employees around for longer or will reorganize their structure to require fewer teachers. This means bigger classrooms and less attention to each student, which could result in suffering grades and lowering standards for all of South Dakota.
This is particularly an issue because, unlike institutions such as Dakota State University, K-12 schools are, by law, not allowed to generate revenue, and so are entirely funded by local tax proceeds and the state government allocations. In the case of Dakota State University, the University generates income from student tuition, among other things, and this lets universities and colleges be more flexible with their hiring and spending.
Since Dakota State University is a high-ranking school for teaching degrees, this is obviously an important issue for anyone with an education major, particularly a K-12 education majors. Vicki Sterling, a professor of education at Dakota State University, expressed her concern about what will happen to the job market.
“I think cuts are going to happen with teachers and possibly administrators, and teachers may not necessarily be teaching in South Dakota. The push is to keep young people in South Dakota, but if there’s not a school to hire, they’ll have to go someplace else.” This “someplace else” could be another state or one far away from family, but Sterling expresses a warning that these positions may not “fulfill everyone’s desires as a teacher.”
But, wait! Before ushing to change your major to arts and humanities in the hopes of better job placement opportunities, there is another opinion. Mark Hawkes, a Professor of Education and Academic Coordinator of Graduate Studies in Educational Technology, says that he thinks a year or two worth of budget cuts in K-12 likely won’t significantly change Dakota State University’s programs or the employability of its students.
“I don’t think that students will be discouraged from going into education,” he explained to me, “because even though they can make a very comfortable living, students go into education knowing the salary isn’t the number one priority, but [instead] satisfaction and building a democratic society through education.” He explained that the K-12 battle for funding was nothing new, and they have managed to pull through and keep producing high-quality students so far, as undergraduates can attest.
What will these spending cuts mean for Dakota State University itself? Mark reassured that, “I think that, “DSU’s administration is very conscious of the concern and very thoughtful about how they’re going to face those cuts, so I have confidence that whatever we look like in the next year will be the best possible scenario we are left with.”
Meanwhile, if you are an education major or just a concerned student and an opinion on the spending cuts in education departments, consider writing a letter or sending a messenger to Governor Daugaard. Believe it or not, that could really make a difference. Contact information for the governor can be found at http://sd.gov/governor/contact.aspx.