COLUMBIA, SC (WSPA) — According to a new report by the Center for Educator Recruitment, Retention and Advancement (CERRA), 977 South Carolina educators left their jobs in the middle of this school year.

CERRA usually conducts a supply and demand report every year in the winter, but in 2021 and this year they released mid-year reports as well.

The most recent report shows the number of teacher vacancies reported statewide was higher in February 2022 than it was the beginning of the school year. Researchers said there are 1121 vacant teaching positions right now. Back in the fall, school districts reported 1063 open positions.

Educator groups in South Carolina say they weren’t surprised by these findings. They said it should be a call to action for state lawmakers and local school boards.

South Carolina Education Association President Sherry East said, “If this many people left, what is it going to look like in June or August next year? Where are we going to find teachers?”

East said members who have resigned during the school year have told her working conditions have made the job difficult. “We are losing teachers every year. We have a shortage. But now it’s at the magnitude of crisis level,” East said.

Director of Governmental Affairs for the Palmetto State Teachers Association (PSTA) Patrick Kelly said, “This is something that has a direct negative impact on a student’s academic achievement and behavioral, social well-being.”

State lawmakers are currently considering giving teachers pay bumps and to raise the starting salary up from $36,000 to $40,000. There is also a bill moving through the State House that would give elementary and special education teachers daily unencumbered time.

Kelly said lawmakers could do more to address the issues teachers are facing and should prioritize fixing this problem. “If you’re concerned about what is being taught or what’s not being taught in classrooms right now, you should be more alarmed nothing is being taught in about 1100 classrooms because we can’t fill a vacancy,” Kelly said.

According to CERRA, 178 of the 1121 vacant teacher positions were newly created jobs for the 2021-22 school year that have yet to be filled. Therefore, most vacancies occurred as a result of teacher resignations.