As a whole hockey arena watched, competitors scrambled to the center of the ice, not for the puck but for the dollar bills – 5,000 to be exact.
Ten teachers were selected for a Dash for Cash giveaway at a junior hockey league game on Saturday night in Sioux Falls, SD, drawn to the opportunity to earn extra money for classroom improvement.
At the signal, the educators knelt down and frantically collected as much money as they could. They stuffed the tickets into their shirts while the crowd whispered.
The giveaway – hosted by the United States Hockey League’s Sioux Falls Stampede, in conjunction with CU Mortgage Direct, a local loan company – was quickly and widely criticized as demeaning to teachers.
Critics have said that no teacher should have to put up with the kind of indignity that unfolded in a hockey game. They pointed out that South Dakota was the second to last salary for teachers, averaging $ 49,000 per year.
Reynold F. Nesiba, a senator from the Democratic state of Sioux Falls and a professor at Augustana University, said Monday that while the giveaway’s organizers were “well-meaning,” the event was ill-conceived.
“It just seems insulting and absurd that teachers organize an event like this to raise a few hundred dollars for their classrooms,” Nesiba said. “It also seems disrespectful to teachers. What other profession would be called upon to raise funds in this way?
A video of the competition, which took place in the first intermission of the Stampede’s loss to the Tri-City Storm, had been viewed more than 14 million times on Monday. He inevitably drew comparisons with the dystopian Netflix series “Squid Game”, in which hundreds of people facing financial desperation play deadly children’s games for the chance to win millions of dollars. It wasn’t the first time that a USHL team had sponsored a teachers’ money run – the Green Bay Gamblers hosted a similar event a few years ago.
The Sioux Falls Stampede and CU Mortgage Direct did not immediately respond to requests for comment on Monday, but a spokesperson for the loan company told The Argus Leader, a Sioux Falls newspaper, that the company wanted to do something. to help teachers after a tough few years.
“Teachers in this field, and any teacher, deserve whatever they get,” spokesperson Ryan Knudson told the newspaper.
In an interview last week promoting the event, Jim Olander, the president of the hockey team, told KELO TV station that each of the teachers had to explain what they were planning to spend the money on. as part of his candidacy to participate in the competition.
“Every teacher has a different reason, some of them are iPads for the classroom, some of them are just new equipment,” Olander said. “We know schools these days need funding, and we’re just trying to play a small part to help them out and have fun while doing it.”
The teachers each raised $ 378 to $ 616, reported The Argus Leader. In addition to being able to keep the money, $ 5 from each game ticket sold by teachers went to their schools, KELO reported.
Several teachers did not immediately respond to requests for comment on Monday, but they told The Argus Leader that they planned to use the money for flexible seating, document scanners, eSports equipment and other articles.
On Monday, the Sioux Falls Education Association criticized the event on Facebook.
“Events like this show that our education system is failing – not only in the Sioux Falls area but across the state,” the association said. “It’s time for us to realign our priorities by focusing on reinvesting the money in the education of our students. No educator should have to crawl on their hands and knees to provide appropriate teaching aids to our students. “
The event caught the attention of Rep. Jim McGovern, a Democrat from Massachusetts, who said he explained why he voted against the National Defense Authorization Act.
“We spend billions on weapons systems that our military don’t want, but teachers are forced to fight for dollar bills on the ground because our schools are so underfunded,” he said. -he declares. wrote on Twitter. “As a congressman and brother to two public school teachers, it is shameful.”
Bernice King, daughter of Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. and executive director of the Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change, wrote on Twitter that she disapproved of the gift.
“It just shouldn’t be the case,” Ms King said on Sunday, adding a quote from her father: “A nation that continues, year after year, to spend more money on military defense than on military programs. he social rise is approaching a spiritual destiny.
Writing for The South Dakota Standard, a commentary website Monday, columnist Tom Lawrence described how the gift was handled.
“Yes, supporting teachers is a good thing,” said Mr. Lawrence. “Donating $ 5,000 to the cause is a generous gesture. And teachers certainly need the money. But it was a bad look, a humiliating exercise for educators.
Michael levenson contributed reports.