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South Carolina school districts face teacher shortages as school year begins

Richland School District One has 181 vacancies while Sumter School District has 154.

COLUMBIA, S.C. — As the new school year nears, some students in the Midlands may not know who their teacher will be this fall as several school districts face record teacher shortages. 

Two weeks from the start of classes, Richland School District Two is working to fill 103 teacher openings.

"It does give us a challenge that I think all districts are facing," said Richland Two Superintendent Dr. Baron Davis. 

Richland School District One has 181 vacancies, while Sumter School District has 154. 

South Carolina Educations Association President Sherry East said few teachers will mean larger class sizes and more schedule switching. 

"You'll start seeing more discipline issues because you've got more students in the classroom, you've got more children interacting with each other," East said. "It's all disruptive, so it's not the optimal learning conditions we want, especially when we start school." 

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Earlier this year, the South Carolina General Assembly raised minimum teacher salaries from $36,000 to $40,000. However, many school districts like Richland Two were already paying more than $40,000. 

Davis said money is not the only factor contributing to the shortage, adding hiring teachers has been a problem for years.

"Burnout is incredible," Davis said. "The impact of COVID and the stress of COVID has been incredible and the lack of people going into the profession." 

Data from the South Carolina Center for Educator Recruitment, Retention and Advancement (CERRA) shows the number of graduates with teaching degrees has been around 2,000 since 2017. 

"We started seeing a gap, like, 'Okay, 4,000 are retiring and 2,000 are graduating college, where are we making up 2,000?'" East said. 

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With this in mind, school districts like Richland Two are focusing on recruitment and retention. 

"We have teacher recruitment fairs throughout the year at the traditional times and the unusual times," Davis said. "We’ve done virtual recruitment fairs, we’ve done retaining bonuses." 

Davis said the district has also given a 2% raise to teachers. 

Florence County School District recently approved paid maternity leave for its teachers. Earlier this year, Fairfield County School District announced its Teacher Village in an effort to provide affordable housing for educators. 

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East said the association approves of these efforts and hopes to see other districts follow suit. "I think teachers are going to start shopping around for parts of our state that are offering these extra incentives to come to those areas."

School districts are also looking for substitute teachers. Richland Two School District's current temporary substitute teacher salary rates are: 

High School Diploma or Associates Degree - $95 per day or $12.66 per hour

 Four-year College Degree - $105 per day or $14 per hour 

South Carolina Certified Teacher - $115 per day - $15.33 per hour.

News 19 reached out to Midlands school districts and asked how many teacher vacancies they currently have:

  • Clarendon County School District: 6 vacancies
  • Fairfield County School District: 7.5 vacancies
  • Kershaw County School District: 4 vacancies
  • Lexington School District One: 28 certified vacancies (Certified employees include teachers, counselors, special educators, and certain other certified professionals.)
  • Lexington County School District Two: 20 vacancies
  • Lexington School District Four: 3 vacancies
  • Lexington-Richland School District Five: 16 vacancies with 98.88% of its classroom positions filled
  • Newberry County School District: 4 vacancies
  • Orangeburg County School District: 36 vacancies
  • Richland County School District One: 181 vacancies
  • Richland County School District Two: 103 vacancies
  • Saluda County School District: 0 vacancies 
  • Sumter County School District: 154 vacancies

RELATED: For teachers, changing classes, grade levels comes at a cost

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