Happy Wednesday! Megan here.
Weather check: Warm-y and (potentially) stormy
This week, it's a newsy one! You'll find the next story in my ongoing series looking at the childcare crisis. You'll also learn what's driving skyrocketing costs in public safety for Minnehaha County, and how Sioux Falls schools are upping the ante to recruit special education teachers.
And now, news.
Most daycares could take in more kids if they could hire more staff
Editor's note: This is one in a series of stories breaking down the findings of a six-month study looking at possible solutions to the childcare crisis in Sioux Falls. Find an overview here.
Simplified: Childcare centers in Sioux Falls struggle to hire, retain and pay workers, according to a recent study from the Sioux Falls Childcare Collaborative. Here's a look at some possible solutions to help solve the crisis faced by the "workforce behind the workforce."
Why it matters
- Nearly two-thirds of childcare centers say they can't enroll as many kids as their legal capacity allows because they aren't able to hire enough staff to maintain the needed ratios. And in total about three-fourths of centers are trying to hire workers.
- Even when centers are able to find workers, they're seldom able to keep them, data shows. The turnover rate for childcare workers was 88% in South Dakota in 2021.
- Childcare workers are also among the lowest-paid people in the state, with an average salary of $12.34 per hour (or about $25,600 annually). For perspective, that's about half the average salary for teachers in Sioux Falls.
"We've got to change the narrative ... this is not daycare," said Rana DeBoer, one of two leaders of the Childcare Community Initiative behind the report presented last month. "It's not babysitting. This is childcare, and this is early learning."
You probably didn't know this about the Butterfly House
This is a paid piece from the Great Plains Zoo.
Simplified: From community partnerships to tiny sharks, there's a lot you may not know about the Butterfly House and Aquarium. Here's a look at some hidden gems and fun facts to make your next visit even more impressive.
Why it matters
- The Butterfly House and Aquarium is the only public saltwater aquarium in the Dakotas, as well as one of only a few butterfly houses nationwide that's open year-round.
- At any given time, there are between 800 and 1,000 butterflies in the conservatory, all of which are non-native species.
- The goal is conservation. The nonprofit has a number of partnerships to work not only to conserve local species like the Dakota Skipper butterfly, but also to encourage conservation globally by giving people firsthand experience with ocean and rainforest environments.
"If people can connect with an animal, they'll want to preserve the place that animal lives,"Aquarium Director Michelle Coley said.
Why public safety costs are rising in Minnehaha county
Simplified: Public safety costs in Minnehaha County have increased 47% in the last five years, according to budget data shared this week with the county commission. Here's a look at the "why" behind some of those rising costs.
Why it matters
- Public safety costs make up nearly half of the county's total budget for next year. The provisional 2024 budget approved by commission on Tuesday was $168.5 million.
- The total public safety budget for next year is about $71 million. That includes everything from the county jail to the sheriff's office to court costs. That's up from a $48 million annual public safety budget in 2020.
- Staffing is far and away the biggest driver of cost increases, Warden Jeff Gromer told Sioux Falls Simplified. That's due in part to higher turnover during the pandemic and the overall wage increases needed to keep recruiting correctional officers and other jail staff.
"Everything's getting more expensive," Gromer said. "We're very staff-intensive. Our job in public safety and law enforcement is not something you can really automate."
Super Simplified Stories
- Superintendent sticking around. Superintendent Jane Stavem will serve at least another three years as the head of the Sioux Falls School District after board members approved her new contract. Morgan Matzen with the Argus Leader has the full story on what that contract includes.
- Billion Pavilion coming to Sanford. The Sanford Children's Hospital this week announced a new $1.4 million park for pediatric patients, including a caterpillar climber, spring rider, patterned path routes, an oodle swing and sound arch. It'll be called the "Billion Pavilion" – named after donors David H. and Christine Billion, who gave $1 million to complete the project. The park is set to be completed in October. Here's a rendering of what it'll look like:
This conference will inspire women to chase their dreams
This is a paid piece from the Woman to Woman Conference.
Simplified: Marissa Rehder wanted to feel the inspiration and enlightenment that came from attending a women's business conference, but living on a farm with three kids kept her from traveling to the big cities. Now, she's in her second year of bringing the Woman to Woman Conference to the region.
Why it matters
- Woman to Woman aims to bring women in business together to get inspired to take their work to the next level.
- Last year, 100 women attended, and after an overwhelmingly positive response, Rehder knew she had to bring the event back even bigger. The second annual event on Sept. 9 at Calico Skies Vinyard and Winery has space for up to 200 women.
- Conference speakers are all successful businesswomen from the Sioux Falls and surrounding area, and they'll share talks on everything from trauma-informed healing to what Taylor Swift can teach us about personal branding.
"When I started my business, I felt very alone in how big I wanted to grow," Rehder said. "But it turns out that there is a whole community of women who want the same. We just need a space to meet and grow together."
How Sioux Falls schools are filling open teacher jobs
Simplified: The Sioux Falls School District had fewer teachers to hire for the 2023-24 school year, but even so finding special education teachers is proving to be a challenge, Human Resources Director Becky Dorman said. Here's a look at how the district is making it work.
Why it matters
- The last couple of years, the school district has had to fill around 220 open teaching positions – not counting the 250 substitute teachers needed to start the year or the dozens of open jobs for education assistant and other paraprofessionals.
- This year, only about 150 teaching jobs were open, which Dorman attributes to a combination of reasons, including fewer retirements, higher retention and about 14 teaching jobs that were cut due to the expiration of federal pandemic relief funds. The district was able to reabsorb those teachers into other jobs.
- The toughest jobs to recruit for are special education jobs, and even with the district doubling the sign-on bonus for qualified teachers to move to those positions, special education jobs still make up about half of the 15 remaining open teaching jobs with about a month to go until school starts.
- The district is also increasingly looking internationally to find teachers. Dorman noted an art teacher, elementary teacher and special education teacher that joined the district from the Philippines .
"We have no U.S. workers applying for those jobs," Dorman said. "So, as long as this teacher shortage stays as it currently is, I believe we will continue to look worldwide for our teachers."
THIS AND THAT
What I'm falling for this week:
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