COLUMBIA, S.C. — With one month left in the legislative session, the largest educator group in the state gathered at the State House Tuesday and called on lawmakers to attract, retain, and compensate teachers.
In March, the Center for Educator Recruitment, Retention and Advancement (CERRA) released a report on teacher vacancies. CERRA had reported in November that the state’s schools began the current year with a record 1,033 vacant teaching positions. Halfway through the year that total increased to 1,121.
"It doesn't matter what curriculum our children are taught if there's not great teachers, not great teaching– in that classroom," said Palmetto State Teachers Association (PSTA) Governmental Affairs Director Patrick Kelly.
Members of the PSTA are calling for the General Assembly to pass bills that provide uninterrupted planning time for teachers, decrease standardized testing burdens, and offer bonuses to education majors to attract more teachers to the profession.
“In the year 2022, if you're going to attract great talent you're going to have to compensate them," said Kelly.
Some lawmakers are hoping to retain teachers by raising their minimum pay from $36,000 to $40,000. Though Senate budget writers have proposed a $2,000 bump, which Kelly said is "disappointing.".
Chairman of the Senate Education Committee Senator Greg Hembree supports raises, but doesn't believe it will solve shortages.
“I think our work needs to be more focused on improving that working environment," said Hembree.
Hembree backs a bill that could allow schools to hire non-certified teachers in an effort to staff schools.
Terrance Holley is a teacher at W.A Perry Middle School in Richland County. He has seen first hand how teacher vacancies impact children.
"A lot of times you are ending up having a long term sub who may not be as qualified, or you are ending up in a situation where there is no teacher in the classroom," said Holley.
Senate budget writers are also proposing to spend $227 million on public schools. The same amount of money the House proposed to spend.