DARLINGTON COUNTY (WMBF) - South Carolina Superintendent Molly Spearman joined other state and local leaders to talk about the biggest problems facing state and local education at the 2017 Darlington County Education Forum Friday afternoon.
The education forum is a way for teachers to have a voice in how lawmakers address important education issues in their county and state.
"The most important thing is we want to know the thoughts that go on with our legislators regarding the decisions that affect our children every day," LaQuetta Johnson, a teacher at Pate Elementary in Darlington, said.
Spearman said attending a forum like this is essential to improving South Carolina's education system.
"It's important for me because I learn a lot, I hear from the teachers, I learn what their concerns are." Spearman said. "So it's a big part of my job to get out and meet with teachers and I appreciate it, because I get a chance to say thanks. They need to hear that from me."
Educators asked lawmakers about teacher shortages, salary, education equality, standardized testing and reading levels.
Both state and local lawmakers agreed that the teacher shortage is the biggest issue facing education both locally and across the nation.
Sign-on bonuses, increasing teacher pay, teacher mentoring and coaching are just some things local educators say they are doing to prevent teacher shortages
South Carolina House Speaker Jay Lucas said the teacher shortage and pay go hand-in-hand.
"If you look down the road in 10 years, you have to look at the areas where we are going to be short and those are science teachers, math teachers, technology teachers, computer teachers, special education teachers," Lucas said. "What we have to do is find those individuals who are going to the private sector and make it more lucrative to come and teach in our South Carolina schools."
Education equality was another hot topic of discussion. It is an issue that Spearman said is a priority on her agenda.
"In some places there are more opportunities than others and my goal is to give those opportunities across South Carolina, no matter where you live," she said.
The Abbeville lawsuit, which brought to light South Carolina's lack of education equality, was dismissed this year. Teachers expressed their concerns about the decision to dismiss the case, stating they hoped the dismissal will not slow down the state's efforts to improve education equality.
Lucas, who asked the S.C. Supreme Court to release the decades-old lawsuit, said despite the dismissal, efforts are still going strong. He added that in order for students to be prepared, things need to change
"We need the change the curriculum in this state. We have a 19th century curriculum," Lucas said. "If we want to give our children a 21st century education, we're going to have to step up our game a little bit."