Columbia, SC (WLTX) - — As state senators had the opportunity to pre-file legislation before noon on Wednesday, a group of current and former educators wanted to make sure their voices were heard in the State House lobby.
For Timothy Monreal, a Lexington County middle school social studies teacher, it was an opportunity to live what he teaches from a textbook. On Wednesday, he was a protestor at the State House.
“I'm here today for three main reasons. First of all, to increase teacher pay. It's harder and harder to afford being a teacher in South Carolina. Number two, to make sure teachers have protections and rights. And then finally, to make sure all our schools are fully funded,” Monreal said while in the lobby with more than a dozen others.
The group SC for Ed said they were trying to bring attention to their cause.
The group of current and former teachers were wearing red. Some held signs featuring pop-culture figures, like a professor from the Harry Potter series and a character from the show Breaking Bad.
Monreal said he and his fellow educators lack freedom in the classroom.
“Basically, we just want to make sure that our time is our own, we are increasingly being hit with meetings and standards and different accountability things that really challenges our ability to teach,” Monreal said.
“I mean I think it's just a trend of the teaching profession losing that status and losing that prestige. We are no longer expected to be able to do our job, somebody has to tell us how to do it,” he continued.
The middle school teacher added that he believes the current teaching shortage is caused by low pay and a lack of respect for the profession, making students whom are interested in teaching nervous.
So, on the state senate’s pre-filing day he wanted action.
“Ultimately, we want to make sure-- today's a pre-filing day, we want to see policy, we want to see bills that are passed to make sure schools are fully funded and that we have a substantial increase in our salaries,” Monreal said.
The group met with Democratic Representative Russell Ott, who said he plans on introducing a teacher bill of rights during house pre-filing on December 18.
Ott explained the proposed bill touches on teacher pay, tools for success, classroom discipline, and compensation for the extra hours of work he says are associated with teaching.
“Momentum is building with public education reform,” Ott said.
“We’ve got to let our teachers do their jobs,” he added.
Ott called Wednesday’s meeting "great," and said he was excited to make real comprehensive change in education.
Republican Rep. Chris Wooten is also sponsoring the teacher bill of rights, according to Ott.
Before the meeting, Monreal said they were asking for a 10-20 percent raise for teacher salaries, along with a more hands-off approach to mandated student performance goals.
Senate pre-filing ended at noon Wednesday. A list of the pre-filed bills is not publicly available yet, so it is unknown if a Senate bill focused on education was filed early.