A bill making it through the South Dakota Senate would allocate $5 million a year for full scholarships pegged for future teachers. It would also create a board to decide how best to award the funds to 3rd and 4th year students who plan to remain in South Dakota. The subjects at which the scholarships are aimed would change based on school systems’ current needs.

The bill has wide support, mostly because it replicates the most popular aspect of the recently defeated school reform initiative. Given current tuition rates, the scholarships would fund about 13 students each year, a number that all parties involved admit would likely not meet the needs of replacing retiring teachers.

While this measure represents a step in the right direction, there are reasons why the teaching shortage in key fields exists. South Dakota ranks at or near the bottom in teacher pay. When you consider this in conjunction with the fact that today’s college seniors will finish with an average of $27,000 in student loan debt; it should come as no surprise that graduates are looking for more lucrative options.

If the Governor and the legislature want to do more than put a band-aid on this problem, they are going to have to address the larger problem; or we will continue to watch good teachers pack their bags for greener pastures.