Editorial: Teachers didn’t deserve to be demeaned in event

Published 8:50 pm Friday, December 17, 2021

By now, you may have seen the news from earlier this week of teachers scrambling on the ice of a Sioux Falls, South Dakota Stampede USHL hockey game for $5,000 in cash.

Ten Sioux Falls area teachers were pitted against each other as the money was laid out on a mat on the ice during an intermission and just started reaching for money, which they could then spend on supplies for their classroom.

It was cringe-worthy to watch. The intentions may have been well placed, but the lack of any kind of forethought or simple dignity is disturbing on a variety of levels, begging one simple question: Is this truly where we are right now?

The Stampede partnered with CU Mortgage Direct in Sioux Falls for the event.In a story from the Sioux Falls Argus Leader, Ryan Knudson, director of Business Development and Marketing for CU Mortgage demonstrated the tone-deafness of the situation.

“With everything that has gone on for the last couple of years with teachers and everything, we thought it was an awesome group thing to do for the teachers,” Knudson said for the article, printed on Dec. 11. “The teachers in this area, and any teacher, they deserve whatever the heck they get.”

Absolutely they do, but was there no other way to do it? There wasn’t one other idea that would have worked? Why were these questions not asked before the event?

Organizers later issued an apology and an additional $500 for each teacher. The Stampede themselves were kicking in an additional $15,000 to be split among all 31 teachers in the original pool. But it’s hard to still not condemn the act in light of needing just one level head to point out how this might be construed.

The very image of teachers on their knees reaching and grabbing for $1 bills was misguided and demeaning.

We’re certainly not going to blame the teachers for this, though some have called on the teachers to demonstrate a certain level of pride. We will not make that judgment. If anything, this whole thing is a shameful indictment of education funding in South Dakota and the nation as a whole.

An average teacher salary in South Dakota is $49,000, but the depressing story throughout the nation tells the story that oftentimes teachers are forced to spend their own money for classroom materials.

Where in the working world is this kind of formula followed? Schools are put into a no-win situation as they struggle to ensure students have everything they need to give kids a solid education.

It’s a binding issue that connects directly to state and federal spending, which just doesn’t seem like a priority when you look at the brass tacks of the situation.

Granted, there have been steps forward. Earlier this year in Minnesota, Gov. Tim Walz and legislative leaders set a spending target totaling $20.5 billion, $525 million above current base spending levels.

It’s the largest increase in 15 years, but that’s Minnesota and can’t be necessarily counted on elsewhere.

Teachers, schools and education need to be properly funded, but they also need support from their communities. We urge people to be creative in helping our teachers, but to practice a modicum of common sense. The stresses on teachers these days are monumental and we don’t need to add demeaning “acts of kindness” on top of an already difficult situation.

We credit the Stampede and CU Mortgage Direct for wanting to be a part of the solution and for stepping up and realizing their mistakes, but we need to be a society that thinks first and then acts, rather than act first and ask for permission later.