Columbia, SC (WLTX) – A statewide teacher shortage continues to grow.
On Monday morning, the Education Oversight Committee listened to an annual report on the SC Teacher Loan program.
"Our goal has always been to put an excellent teacher in every classroom,” says Neil Robinson, chair of the committee. “Now it's just a goal to find a teacher to put in a classroom and that's a sad place for us to be."
The program, which was implemented in the 1980's, is supposed to help bring teachers into classrooms around the state, but Dr. Bob couch says the potential debt for future teachers is a challenge.
"When you're in school and you're accumulating debt, one of the things that you have is that if you accumulate the loan and the debt, and you go into teaching and you look at the salary that's paid, is how are going to be able to handle such a debt," he says.
In fiscal year 2015-2016, the loan program had an excess of $19.4 million. Lawmakers are trying to take $16 million of that and add it to this year's budget to help improve crumbling schools in the Abbeville lawsuit.
"It's not being used as effectively and it may be because of the teacher pay and the other professions that they may go into," says Representative Dwight Loftis, R-Greenville County.
Couch says the loans may not be enough of an incentive to recruit and retain teachers.
"I do think education as a field is changing,” says Dr. Couch. “I think with the national board certification is a part of that. It increases the teacher’s salary to be able to do that particular program and that's been an incentive."
Out of the 51,768 full and part time certified teachers in the state, 4,842 did not return to the classroom in the 2016-2017 school year.
That number has been climbing since 2012.
"I think we need to do a better job of selling the field itself,” says Dr. Couch.
Of the teachers that did not return to the classroom, 2,465 of them have taught for five years or less.