The comparison between a teacher and an auto mechanic is false on at least two bases: First, teachers don't work 12 months out of the year, auto mechanics do (unless they get laid off). Teachers generally work about 9 months, or 75%, of the year. If the salary of $33,600 is annualized, it's the equivalent of an annual salary of $44,800.
Second, teachers get platinum-plated health and retirement benefits that no auto mechanic gets. For 2014, the average monthly premium for a platinum Obamacare policy in South Dakota for a single non-smoker aged 30 was $333, or $3,996 a year. Public sector unions generally have platinum level plans and the premiums are paid wholly by the government involved, therefore it's reasonable to assume that the average teacher in SD gets the equivalent of an Obamacare platinum plan. Further, even though teachers only work 9 months out of 12, their insurance premiums are paid for all 12 months, therefore the monthly average must be multiplied by 12 to determine the additional monetary benefit SD teachers receive just for health insurance. I got my values for the SD Obamacare policies here: http://dlr.sd.gov/insurance/consumers/consumer_documents/sd_exchange_rates_individual.pdf
Adding in just the insurance premiums of $3,996 brings the average SD teacher's total compensation up to $48,796 on an annualized basis.
With respect to pension contributions, according to this webpage
, 12% of a SD teacher's salary is contributed to the pension fund, 6% from the teacher and 6% from the employer. That means that, in addition to everything else, a SD teacher earning the average of $33,600 gets another $2,016 in financial benefit from the taxpayers.
Adding in the annual employer (i.e., taxpayer) contribution of $2,016 brings the average SD teacher's total compensation up to $50,812 on an annualized basis.
The median income in 2014 for a single individual in SD is approximately $39,000 based on the bankruptcy rules as a source for the 2014 median income for a single individual in SD (the median income for each state is used to determine whether an individual can file a chapter 7 bankruptcy, so the figures are reasonably accurate; the source I used is here: http://www.totalbankruptcy.com/chapter-7/requirements/median-income-tables.aspx
So, now that we're a little closer to comparing apples to apples, and not to oranges grown on Mars, let's see what we get.
Median 2014 annual income for an individual in SD: $39,000
Annualized 2014 annual income - including all financial benefits - for the average teacher in SD: $51,000 (rounded to the nearest thousands).
Conclusion? Not only are teachers in South Dakota not
underpaid, they are in fact quite highly paid, with total annualized compensation of 131% of the median income in 2014 for an individual in SD.
Based on the salary data
from salary.com for an auto mechanic in Rapid City, SD, the median annual pay for an auto mechanic in Rapid City, SD is about $32,000 (rounded to the nearest thousands). That is (a) substantially less than what the average teacher in SD gets paid, on an annualized basis, and (b) still less than the actual cash compensation the average teacher in SD receives (which also means the article's data is in error - the average teacher in SD does not
get less than the average auto mechanic).
Note that I am not adding in any additional financial benefits like health insurance or retirement for auto mechanics because most auto mechanics don't get anything of that nature. However, to be sporting, let's assume that the median auto mechanic in SD gets 100% of his/her health insurance premium paid for by his/her employer (SD has a coverage rate of 89%, mostly through employers, so this assumption is not entirely unreasonable, although it is extremely conservative). From the figures above, we know that the average annual insurance premium for a 30 y.o. non-smoker individual is $3,996, or $4,000 when rounded to the nearest thousands.
Adding that conservatively assumed insurance premium benefit brings the 2014 median annual income for an auto mechanic in Rapid City, SD to approximately $36,000.
So, even if we make the very conservative assumption that the average auto mechanic in SD gets his/her health insurance completely paid for by his/her employer, the average auto mechanic in SD still gets only about 71% of the annualized total compensation that the average teacher in SD receives.
Bottom line conclusion: the article is patently false. When all financial benefits are taken into account, and even if we make the conservative assumption that the average auto mechanic in SD gets his/her health insurance paid for by the employer, the average teacher in SD is paid substantially more than the average auto mechanic on an annualized basis.
Just goes to show, there are lies, there are damned lies, and then there are statistics, which are useful only when the sources and bases for those statistics are stated, otherwise, statistics are worse than damned lies.
Further data on SD teachers' compensation can be found at this webpage: http://www.teaching-certification.com/salaries-benefits/south-dakota-teaching-salaries-and-benefits.html