COLUMBIA, SC (WSPA) — State lawmakers and education leaders are looking at ways to bring in and keep more certified teachers in South Carolina classrooms.

Julia Sowell is a Secondary Education Major at Clemson University. She’s on track to graduate next May and hopes to be teaching in a classroom in South Carolina after that.

“I think it’s the most important profession in the country,” Sowell said.

Before she gets her degree, Sowell will be helping the state recruit and keep future teachers like her. Sowell is the Teachers Fellow representative assigned to the newly established South Carolina Teacher Recruitment and Retention task force.

“I don’t take it lightly that I’m the only education student on the task force,” she said.

The task force was established with a one-year proviso in this year’s state budget. Its made up of state lawmakers, state education officials, future, current and former teachers.

The task force will study and consider policies that increase recruitment to the teaching profession, improve teacher preparation, transform compensation for teachers, enhance the effectiveness of teacher evaluation, improve working conditions for all teachers.

Speaker of the House Murrell Smith (R-Sumter) said recruitment and retention issues go beyond just pay, “The work we’re going to have to do is things outside the budget and outside of salaries.”

The task force will also consider policies and programs used by other states across the country.

Sowell said she’s looking forward to conversations about the challenges facing new teachers and what the state and others can do to help.

“Affordable housing is definitely something that as a senior I’m thinking about right now. Where am I going to live? How am I going to pay for it? Another big thing is support. That first year in the classroom we’re thrown in with a lot of paperwork and lots of new learning to do.”

The task force is required to send their recommendations to the Governor, House and Senate leadership by May 2023.