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"Dash for Cash" stunt demeans teachers, critics say

Critics are blasting a minor league hockey team and a mortgage lender in South Dakota for a recent fundraising stunt in which 10 local teachers competed to collect cash, calling the event demeaning to educators.

The Sioux Falls Stampede's "Dash for Cash" promotion invited teachers to snatch as many $1 bills from a $5,000 pile of money donated by CU Mortgage Direct. Stampede fans watched from the stands Saturday as participants grabbed dollars by the fistful, with plans to use the money for classroom supplies.

The event swiftly drew attention on social media, with some likening the stunt to the dystopian Netflix hit series "Squid Game," in which people in severe debt compete in a series of deadly children's games. A video of the Dash for Cash event surpassed 11 million views on Twitter Monday.

"To entertain hockey fans in Sioux Falls, they have teachers run across ice in a desperate scramble for money to equip their classrooms," tweeted Bill Weir, a news anchor for CNN. "We're just a few sharpened sticks away from public education 'Squid Game.'"

Commentators also piled into CU Mortgage Direct's Facebook page, calling the event "disgusting," "humiliating" and "shameful."

"Well, you got publicity but I don't think it turned out like you had hoped," one Facebook user posted. "Making teachers crawl on hands and knees in helmets for money. Disgusting and shameful."

The Sioux Falls Stampede and CU Mortgage Direct apologized for hosting the event, the Associated Press reported

"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 companies said in a joint statement.

In their apology, the Stampede along with CU Mortgage Direct said they would be providing an additional $15,500 to area teachers.

Each teacher grabbed between $378 and $616 from the event, the Argus Leader reported

Lowest pay in the U.S.

Critics said the cash grab is especially degrading because South Dakota teachers earn the lowest salaries in the U.S. at around $49,000 in 2020, according to National Education Association data.

"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," Loren Paul, president of South Dakota's teacher union, said in a statement to CBS MoneyWatch. "As a state, we shouldn't be forcing teachers to wrestle with one another to get the money they need to fund their classrooms."

Reynold Nesiba, a state senator who represents a portion of Sioux Falls, told the Washington Post that Dash for Cash showed "a terrible image."

"Teachers should never have to go through something like this to be able to get the resources they need to meet the basic educational needs of our students — whether it's here in Sioux Falls or anywhere in the United States," Nesiba told the newspaper.

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