We are less than one week away from South Carolina students going back to school, but leading up to this point discussions concerning school safety and the state of teacher employment have been ongoing.
The South Carolina Education Association held a school-year kick off for teachers Tuesday to highlight changes educators can expect this school year and talk about the work that’s still left to be done.
40% of South Carolina teachers leave the classroom within 5 years and many teachers say low salaries and lack of support are to blame.
The president of SCEA says the turnover rate is alarming. “Because it’s just not for them. It’s not what they thought. They’re struggling financially. They’re struggling with having resources or support they need. so what can we do to fix that,” said Sherry East.
So pressure has been on lawmakers to increase pay and support. This year that adds up to a 1% raise in salaries.
“Most people are pretty angry about the 1% they appreciate the 1% thank you, but that comes out to $300 and if you divide that by 12,” East explained.
There is other financial support though. Teachers will receive a stipend for classroom supplies. The $275 helps teachers buy things for the classroom they usually don’t get from the district like construction paper and extra books.
Teachers say the extra money comes in handy and keeping supplies in the classroom all year.
“There are 180 days in a school year, you have 18-20 students so you multiply 180 days with the glue stick, construction paper, pencils, definitely the money helps with those costs,” added 13-year teaching veteran Stephanie Johnson.
Teachers will also be able to hold on to sick days and not lose money for not using them as part of new legislation. Before the Teacher Appreciation Bill teachers were only paid for up to 90 days of paid time off and were allowed a maximum of 90 days to carry into retirement.
East said the bill is a step in the right direction in helping teachers keep their money in their pocket.
“In my district at one point they paid you for those extra days that you didn’t use and then when the budget cuts came.. they got rid of that so I had days that if I didn’t use them I would lose them, I could only carry 90 into retirement so every year that extra 10 I’d lose them.”
The association is hoping to push for another salary increase when lawmakers return to the State House in January.
Starting salary for a teacher with 0 years of experience and a bachelor’s in South Carolina is now $32,000 with the 1% increase approved by lawmakers. Base salaries in North Carolina and Georgia are $35,000 and $34,092 respectively for the 2018 school year.