COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - Alison VanArsdalen has been teaching for 12 years. She rarely takes a day off, but on Tuesday she didn’t go to work.
She is one of the hundreds of teachers who were in Columbia talking to their state senators and state representatives about fixing education in the state.
This was all a part of SC for Ed’s Money Matters Lobby Day. According to their website, SC for Ed is an organization working on empowering educators to become a community of advocates focused on increasing educator salary and benefits, improving discipline policies and increasing school funding.
“We felt bad about leaving some of our colleagues behind and our students and schools with substitutes,” VanArsdalen says, “But we felt like this was a really important point we needed to drive home."
VanArsdalen is a middle school teacher in Dorchester District Two. She came to Columbia with a group of teachers from the same school to make their voice heard. They want to see an increase in their pay and an improvement to their work conditions. “I might go a whole day and not get a bathroom break. Or not be able to eat my lunch until 3 o’clock,” she said.
Ronald Stroman has been working in education for 30 years. He made the trip from Sumter to the State House.
“We have to put our students first. But in order to do that, we can’t put our teachers last,” he said.
The Governor’s Executive Budget sets aside money for a 5% teacher pay raise. The Governor’s Office says that will put teacher salaries above the Southeastern average in 2020.
SC for Ed is pushing for a 10% raise. “We have teachers that are working two jobs to make ends meet. We need to have a 10% raise, at least. 5% is good. We appreciate the governor for that, but we need 10%,” Stroman said.
Some teachers, like VanArsdalen’s group, were able to sit down with their lawmakers. These teachers say they will keep a close eye on H.3759.
Many teachers were frustrated the bill was filed without their input. They say they plan on testifying while it is in subcommittee.
VanArsdalen said, “This is just a drop in the bucket. We know we have a long road to go. This is just the beginning.”