In a hockey game in South Dakota, the teachers competed for the money: NPR

$1 bills

Teachers grab dollar bills in a ‘race for cash’ during intermission at a hockey game in South Dakota, sparking controversy for transforming teachers’ need to pay school supplies in a public spectacle.

“As a teacher, I find this humiliating,” a commenter wrote after video of the event was posted on Twitter. “Rumbling against others on the field for a few $1 bills? How about honoring teachers with genuine donations rather than turning ourselves into silly entertainment for fans?”

The Sioux Falls Stampede hockey team had urged fans not to miss Saturday’s contest, which it promoted as its first “Dash for Cash.” Cheered on by fans, 10 teachers from local schools gathered around a large piece of carpet in the middle of the ice, where $5,000 in $1 bills had just been thrown.

The event highlighted the low salaries of teachers in South Dakota

The educators wore hockey helmets, but had little contact with each other as they knelt to scoop up cash and stuff it into their shirts and pockets.

Video of the event went viral over the weekend after reporter Annie Todd from the Chief Argus of Sioux Falls posted it on Twitter.

The hockey team did not immediately respond to a request for comment from NPR.

South Dakota ranks near the bottom in education spending. The state’s average teacher salary is $48,984 – 50th in the United States (in a list that includes Washington, DC) – according to the National Education Association union, which says the state spends $10,805 per student – 38th in the country.

A review of the dash for cash promotion called “dystopian”, noting that while schools and teachers are struggling, the United States House of Representatives just approved a new US military bill worth $768 billion. The defense authorization bill includes money for two more destroyers than the Biden administration has requested.

The teachers went for the money, not against each other

The Stampede, a junior league team whose players are between the ages of 16 and 20, said any money teachers can grab will be used for their own classrooms or school programs.

As for the teachers who took part in the promotion, it’s perhaps no surprise that they valiantly tolerated the hype, while focusing on what they can do for their students. When the dash ended, they smiled and waved to the crowd, their shirts billowing with silver.

“I think it’s really cool when the community provides an opportunity like this” to pay for things that usually come out of a teacher’s pocket, said Alexandria Kuyper, who teaches fifth-grade students, in an interview with the Chief of Argus.

Kuyper walked away with $592, one of the highest totals, according to the newspaper. Smaller rides cost just under $380. The money for the competition was donated by home lender CU Mortgage Direct.

The sponsor said it sees the dash as a way to help educators, noting the added strains brought about by the pandemic.

“Teachers in this field, and all teachers, deserve everything they get,” said Ryan Knudson, director of business development and marketing for CU Mortgage Direct. Chief of Argus.

The Stampede also put $5,000 on the line in Sunday’s home game, pitting two fans against each other in an on-ice shootout.

South Dakota seeks to raise teachers’ salaries

Gov. Kristi Noem last week proposed a 6% increase in state aid for public education, a move welcomed by the state’s teachers’ union.

The money should go directly to teachers and staff, Noem said, citing the challenges they face and the need to compete in a tight hiring market. But the South Dakota Education Association also notes that if state lawmakers approve the increase in their next session, it will still be up to school districts to choose where and how to use the additional funds.

South Dakota’s public school system receives nearly 14% of its revenue from the federal government — one of the highest percentages in the country, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

Catherine J. Martinez