State lawmakers proposing plan that would give teachers a $4,000 raise

The South Carolina State Legislature will consider a proposal that will give all teachers,...
The South Carolina State Legislature will consider a proposal that will give all teachers, regardless of years of service, a $4,000 raise.(Storyblocks)
Published: Feb. 25, 2022 at 3:04 PM EST|Updated: Feb. 26, 2022 at 1:22 PM EST
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CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - The South Carolina State Legislature will consider a proposal that will give all teachers, regardless of years of service, a $4,000 raise.

The proposal would increase the average starting teacher salary to around $40,000 and put an additional $25 into their annual teacher supplies fund, raising it to $300.

It’s a proposition education advocates like Sherry East, president of the South Carolina Education Association, have been pushing all year.

She says it’s the biggest boost to teacher pay she’s ever seen.

“In my lifetime - and being in South Carolina - I’ve not seen a raise of this size,” East said. “$4,000 at every pay scale is big. . . It’s about all the teachers needing money. So we’re very excited that they heard us on that one.”

East says past efforts to give teacher raises are appreciated but it’s hard to feel a $1,000 raise in a salary divided by 12 months and knocked down by taxes. If approved, teacher could see roughly $300 more month in their paychecks.

“I think it will be something you will feel in your paycheck,” East said. “It’s a significant amount.”

The pay increase is partially an effort to keep teachers at their posts and attract new teachers in a time where districts have struggled to fill open positions. East says in September, there were more than 500 open teacher positions across the state.

“What I’m hoping is that those teachers who were going to retire in June. I’m hopeful that this $4,000 will be enough to keep them in the classroom for a couple more years,” East said. “In the past, it wasn’t uncommon to hear from teacher who have taught for 35-40 years. We’re not seeing that right now.”

In November, it was reported that teacher departures had risen from year-to-year by 15 percent creating one of the largest vacancies in 20 years.

However, money isn’t everything.

Charleston County Schools teacher Sydney Van Bulck says she plans to change careers at the end of the school year, not because she wants to but because she can’t afford not to.

“This is my heart and soul. The fact that I have to step away from the classroom breaks my heart,” Van Bulck said. “Even with a modest raise, I would still be struggling to make ends meet, and each year it gets harder and harder. At some point I have to take care of my own mental health and working three jobs is too much for me right now.”

She says the $4,000 boost in pay is welcome news and she hopes lawmakers will commit to it.

However, she says it’s all just empty words until the money starts hitting bank accounts.

“I really want this for the people who are coming behind me because the housing market is seriously heading in one direction. I hope we can really foster really great teachers that are starting their careers,” Van Bulck said. “We have seen this before. A lot of times, especially right before an election we’ll get this ‘Hey we’re going to give you this huge raise’ and then it goes away when the budget gets finalized. While I am gracious and hopeful, I also have hesitation.”

Van Bulck does believe the boost would help aid retention, but that the scope of the effect is dependent on location.

“I think in other parts of the state it would be massively beneficial,” Van Bulck said. “When we are talking about prices here in Charleston specifically, I am not sure that $4,000 is going to be enough to make a real impact in the way they are hoping it will. . . It is really hard to be a teacher if you are a single income house hold.”

Live 5 News requested the latest teacher vacancy numbers from CCSD, Berkeley County School District and Dorchester District Two. At the time of publishing, none of the districts had responded with the latest information.

The budget proposal also includes raised for bus drivers, state employees and law enforcement. It’s expected to be debated on the House floor in March.

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