SC superintendent of education, attorney general to receive six-figure raises next year

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Published: Nov. 14, 2022 at 7:10 PM EST
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - Several elected officials in South Carolina will receive major pay raises next year, including six-figure bumps for two prominent statewide politicians.

The state’s Agency Head Salary Commission, made up of lawmakers and people appointed by the governor, approved these raises Wednesday after studying the matter, including comparing South Carolina’s salaries for these positions to similar jobs in the southeast.

The last time these six jobs, all of which are statewide elected positions, received raises was nearly 30 years ago.

“I don’t know how you justify that. That’s just taking advantage of people,” Sen. Greg Hembree, R – Horry, and a commission member, said.

Since 1994, the salaries of these six elected positions — state superintendent of education, attorney general, treasurer, agriculture commissioner, comptroller general, and secretary of state — have been locked in at $92,000.

They will all go up in January by a minimum of $43,000 and more than doubling for the state superintendent and attorney general:

  • Superintendent of Education: $214,000
  • Attorney General: $208,000
  • Treasurer: $164,000
  • Agriculture commissioner: $162,000
  • Comptroller General: $151,000
  • Secretary of State: $135,000

Hembree said the raises were needed to be competitive with the private sector and, more so, other jobs in the public sector.

As a point of comparison, the current pay for the state superintendent of education and attorney general is substantially lower than what solicitors and most, if not all, local superintendents make.

“You’re really trying to attract the best and the brightest talent. These are jobs,” he said. “When you look at what we’re asking them to do, you want to try to attract bright people to run for those offices.”

Patrick Kelly of the Palmetto State Teachers Association said if the state is raising these salaries to be competitive with the private sector, the same logic should apply to raising teacher salaries.

“Schools are competing against the private sector for employees in a way that has never been true in my 19-year teaching career,” he said. “If I’ve got a bachelors in science right, I can go make $40,000 starting out in a science classroom in South Carolina, or I can go make double or more than that working at Nephron or working at Westinghouse.”

This year, the General Assembly raised the statewide starting salary for teachers by $4,000, up to $40,000, which Kelly said is close to the southeast average.

However, that did not equate to an across-the-board raise for all teachers in the state, nor were districts that were already paying above the new minimum required to raise theirs.

Kelly says these raises should also open up discussion on how districts are spending their money.

“I think it is a fundamental problem in our schools if you have superintendent and executive staff salaries at the district level that are five, six, seven times what a starting teacher is making when the research shows the quality of that teacher is the biggest investment we can make in student achievement. We’ve got to address that misalignment and get more money into the classroom,” he said.

The Agency Head Salary Commission is now required by law to review and recommend pay for state constitutional officers every four years.

That does not include the governor and lieutenant governor.

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