- Associated Press - Thursday, September 10, 2015

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) - An education task force appointed by Gov. Dennis Daugaard has found that about half of all aspiring teachers graduating from South Dakota colleges leave the state after earning their degrees.

The study also found that 240 classrooms in the state started the 2014-15 school year without a teacher, according to the Argus Leader (https://argusne.ws/1EQ0Rer ). South Dakota ranks last in the nation in teacher wages, and many education leaders blame low pay for what they say is a shortage of qualified candidates.

The numbers were presented Wednesday to the Blue Ribbon Task Force on Teachers and Students, which was formed in the spring to reconsider how schools are funded and address concerns about teacher salaries. The 26-member group of lawmakers, officials, community members and educators broke into small groups to exchange ideas for updating how the state funds K-12 schools.

The proposals, including potential sales tax increases, will be distilled and added to a report for the group’s Oct. 1 meeting.

The statistics concerned task force member Steve O’Brien, an English teacher at Watertown High School.

“This is the first indication that we are starting in a hole,” O’Brien said. “We are still talking about literally thousands of students going without opportunity because of this shortage.”

Heather Maschino, a 31-year-old Dakota State University student majoring in elementary and special education, said she loves Sioux Falls public schools but is not sure she wants to work in the state. Teaching isn’t about the money, she said, but she worries about getting a big enough check to pay off her student loans.

“I love kids, I want to help kids that grow up in impoverished situations,” Maschino said. “But I do have to be able to provide for myself.”

State colleges are expected to produce 3,381 teachers between 2015 and 2019, and about half are projected to leave after they earn a degree, according to the task force report. Enrollment is expected to steadily increase, creating the need for more teaching jobs as educators retire and resign.

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Information from: Argus Leader, https://www.argusleader.com

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