COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - Public education advocacy group, SC for Ed, has planned a walkout, Wednesday, Sept. 23. Organizers have asked teachers to use a personal day to contact South Carolina lawmakers and ask for more support.
Unlike the All Out rally, last year, where we saw an estimated 10,000 people protesting on State House grounds, Wednesday will be more of a virtual show of support, with SC for Ed asking – not just teachers – but anyone who supports public education in our state to Step Up and Step Out.
Because of changes to public education due to the coronavirus pandemic, SC for Ed founder, Lisa Ellis tells WIS-TV that teachers are having to work longer hours with no change in pay. She says although state law has guaranteed teachers a pay raise between 1%-2% each year, delays in passing a state budget have left teachers without that pay increase, meaning more work for the same pay.
Even with this annual bump in salary, Ellis says that really only helps to cover the continued increase in the cost of living.
Now, the opportunity for teacher pay raises has been delayed even further. While the SC Senate passed a budget, last week, including pay increases for teachers, that budget proposal won’t make it to the House floor before the ongoing two-week special session comes to an end, this week.
For now, the state will continue to be funded under the budget passed in the last fiscal year and lawmakers hope to take up the new state budget in January, eliminating the opportunity for teacher pay raises before the end of the year.
Ellis wants public education supporters to contact state lawmakers and demand change.
“With these continued decisions at leadership level of freezing salaries and putting teachers into dangerous situations, what is happening is teachers are continuing to leave the profession and so we want to demonstrate what that would look like in terms of there not being teachers in classrooms,” said Ellis.
The SC for Ed founder went on to say that, “Our salaries are currently frozen and teachers are working harder and longer than they ever have before, and by law, teachers should expect to receive a salary increase.”
Teacher walkouts have at times drawn criticism from some who say these walkouts hurt the students, but Ellis says, “We really need to consider, not just here and now, but the longevity of the profession and if it takes me taking one day out of the school year to go and really fight for public education and fight for teachers, what that means down the line is that, hopefully, that there’s more teachers that are staying in the classroom.”
The teacher also saying that, already, hundreds of teachers have indicated that they’re prepared to leave the profession this year.
“We just put out a survey that showed 27% of teachers are planning on leaving the profession this year and that’s because we have not done what we need to do to take care of teachers and take care of public education,” said Ellis.
Of about 4,000 teachers and staff surveyed by SC for Ed, that’s more than 1,000 saying they might leave.
It’s not clear exactly how many teachers are expected to call out Wednesday. SC for Ed will be hosting a Facebook live event beginning at 9 a.m.
WIS-TV reached out to the South Carolina Department of Education for comment and was told that failure to reinstate teacher pay raises, this year, could lead to an even greater teacher shortage than our state is already experiencing, which will have lasting effects beyond the pandemic.