In my Jan. 10 State of the State address, I proposed $3,500 bonuses to middle and high school math and science teachers, beginning in the 2013-2014 school year.
The proposal attempts to address challenges faced in South Dakota. Jobs available today and projected jobs of tomorrow in our state demand higher knowledge and achievement in the fields of math and science. To drive needed student achievement, we need science and math teachers in South Dakota. We are not attracting or keeping enough of those teachers in our state.
In the 2009-2010 school year, our state universities graduated 176 new elementary school teachers. They graduated only 24 math teachers, 13 biology teachers, and just two chemistry teachers. While all individual school districts may not face this challenge, South Dakota has an overarching need for math and science instructors that we must address.
My South Dakota Workforce Initiatives proposal offers 20 high-impact strategies to address professional and skilled worker shortages across the state. In our preliminary research on workforce needs in South Dakota, we found a common thread. Whether the positions involve healthcare professionals, information technology specialists, welders, accountants, machinists or engineers, we have a shortage of qualified employees in areas that rely strongly on math and science. In the future, we know we'll need more nurses, more computer scientists, more engineers and more machinists than ever.
The need for more professional and skilled workers with math and science backgrounds compounds our need for math and science teachers, since those with strong backgrounds in math and science have many career opportunities outside the classroom. We must do more to retain teachers in these areas.
Research has shown, conclusively, that the most important factor on a student's achievement is the teacher. If we wish to increase our students' achievement in math and science, we need to provide incentives for more great teachers in those areas.
My plan does not intend to rank teachers or claim that one subject area is more important than another. It recognizes a supply problem, and it attempts a market-based solution. My proposal is A plan, not THE plan. I am open to suggestions or improvements to my proposal, toward the end being sought: South Dakota gains more great math and science teachers. More great math and science teachers will lead to more scientists, doctors and engineers for the South Dakota of tomorrow.