FORT MILL, S.C. — South Carolina lawmakers are trying to address the growing teacher shortage by filling classrooms with people who are not certified to be teachers.
The House passed a bill Tuesday that would allow non-certified educators to teach in classrooms if a school has a vacancy five days before the start of the academic year.
The bill requires people who are not certified to have a bachelor's or master's degree in the area they would teach, plus five years of related work experience. The non-certified teacher would be permitted to teach for up to two years.
“This bill allows for the student to have more opportunity to be best prepared for the next grade level,” said Republican Rep. Raye Felder, a supporter of the bill.
Critics said the bill does not provide training for non-certified staff.
“It simply throws these individuals into the classroom with a set of keys and says good luck,” said Patrick Kelly, a high school teacher and president of the Palmetto State Teachers Association. “It is an unacceptable remedy.”
Kelly said he does applaud the intent of the bill.
“They’re trying to remedy the growing teacher shortage crisis in South Carolina which I believe is the most significant threat to student achievement in this state,” he said.
South Carolina started this school year with 700 classrooms without teachers, according to research conducted by The Center for Educator Recruitment, Retention, and Advancement. The shortage is expected to grow next year.
Kelly said he does not believe the bill will achieve what the authors intended.
“It is trying to legislate for unicorns,” he claimed. “I don’t think there is an active workforce for people with chemistry and biology degrees out there that are looking to leave their higher-paying jobs in the private sector to jump into the classroom.”
Right now, the state has a process that allows people with related experience to apply for adjunct positions. Kelly said only 49 people are actively teaching with the adjunct certificate statewide.
“The workforce doesn’t exist,” he said.
Kelly is advocating for lawmakers to consider passing a bill being considered in the House that would allow retired teachers to return to classrooms and be compensated at a higher rate than what is currently allowed. The funding would come from federal COVID-19 response dollars.
“There’s an overwhelming body of research that shows that students learn best when they have access to a certified teacher,” he said.
He considers both bills to be short-term solutions to a long-term problem.
“Our state needs to take the time and invest the effort and resources to address the root causes of the teacher shortage crisis instead of trying to find a band-aid we can slap on that will not benefit our students,” Kelly said.
The bill, which passed the House on Tuesday, is now up for debate in the Senate.