Organizers for a demeaning Dash for Cash giveaway involving ten South Dakota teachers apologized on Tuesday, after backlash of the event sparked controversy on social media. Taking place at a hockey game for the Sioux Falls Stampede, teachers crawled around on a mat laid out on the ice to pick up as many dollar bills as they could, advertised as an opportunity for classroom improvement.
As the crowd watched in disbelief, the teachers got down on the knees and scrambled to pocket as much of the $5,000 as possible, stuffing the bills into their shirts. The Dash for Cash giveaway was immediately criticized as degrading and offensive to teachers.
“Although our intent was to provide a positive and fun experience for teachers, we can see how it appears to be degrading and insulting towards the participating teachers and the teaching profession as a whole,” the Sioux Falls Stampede posted in response to the backlash. “We deeply regret and apologize to all teachers for any embarrassment this may have caused.”
The Dash for Cash event apology was also signed by CU Mortgage Direct, which co-organized the giveaway at the hockey game. The mortgage lender also announced that they would give an additional $500 to the 10 teachers who participated in the giveaway, as well as additional $15,500 to teachers in the area.
Video of the shocking event was posted by reporter Annie Todd, who writes for The Argus Leader in Sioux Falls, S.D., and has reportedly been viewed over 19 million times as of Tuesday, Dec. 14.
“We know this day and age schools are in need of funding, and we’re just trying to play a small part to help them out and have some fun while doing it,” Jim Olander, the hockey team’s president, said in promotion of the Sioux Falls Stampede Dash for Cash giveaway.
Many critics cited a report from October that labeled South Dakota teachers as one of the lowest paid group of educators in the country, with only Mississippi teachers faring worse. According to The National Education Association (NEA), South Dakota teachers make an average of $49,000 annually, the second-lowest yearly pay for educators in the country.
Educators and legislators have called for a pay raise in the state, but government-sanctioned wage increases have been slow moving. According to USA Today, the $49,000 that teachers currently make on average is already up from the abysmal $42,000 average that was reported back in 2016.
“Events like this show that our educational system is broken – not only in the Sioux Falls region but across the state,” said Tim Eckart, Sioux Falls Education Association president. “It’s time for us to realign our priorities by focusing on putting the money back into our students’ education.”
Critics on social media compared the event to a dystopian competition that could have been from Netflix’s recent hit Korean drama Squid Game, where contestants in debt compete for cash by risking their lives in dangerous games.
Governor Kristi Noem has allegedly promised to make K-12 education funding a major part of her budget proposal, and has set a goal to raise pay to $52,600 by the end of 2022.
“This just should not be,” commented Bernice King, daughter of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. “A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual doom.”
The teachers in the Dash for Cash giveaway reported collecting just $300 to $600 each, as well as $5 from each game ticket, which went to their schools. The participating teachers did not comment on the giveaway but told reporters that they planned to use the money to purchase document scanners and more flexible seating.
“While the Dash for the Cash may have been well-intentioned, it only underscores the fact that educators don’t have the resources necessary to meet the needs of their students,” said Loren Paul, president of the South Dakota Education Association. “As a state, we shouldn’t be forcing teachers to crawl around on an ice rink to get the money they need to fund their classrooms.”