Report finds vacant teaching jobs in SC now at unprecedented high

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Published: Nov. 17, 2022 at 10:42 PM EST
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - South Carolina now has more open teaching jobs than ever before, according to a new report that found the state’s educator shortage continues to worsen.

The Center for Educator Recruitment, Retention, & Advancement (CERRA) released its 2022 South Carolina Educator Supply and Demand Report on Thursday, which accumulates data from 72 of the state’s 73 traditional public school districts and two public charter districts.

According to the report, there were 1,474 unfilled K-12 educator jobs at the start of the 2022-2023 school year. While that mainly accounts for certified teachers, it also includes school-based service positions, like counselors and librarians.

That number of vacancies is nearly a 40% increase from the year before when 1,063 openings were reported, and it is more than double the figure from two years ago, 699.

This year also marks the fourth-straight year educator vacancies have hit a record high.

“Just to put this in context, this year’s seniors in high school, every year of high school for them has been an increased number of teaching positions across the state of South Carolina,” Patrick Kelly of the Palmetto State Teachers Association said.

The report also found more than 8,300 educators left jobs in their school district at the end of last school year, equating to about one in seven educators, while schools reported making about 8,000 new hires this year.

But what Kelly, a high school teacher in Richland County, said is an especially notable finding is that there are now 562 fewer total educator positions across the state compared to last year.

“Schools actually eliminated positions but still couldn’t fill those positions,” he said. “That’s even more concerning. This is a shortage that grew with a workforce that contracted, and that has some pretty significant implications for student achievement in South Carolina.”

Educator advocates said something has to give to keep teachers in the classroom, and they said it starts with improving working conditions.

“The workload, the amount of time it takes to do the job and they absolutely just cannot get it done, and they’re not willing to do it for the amount of money we’re paying them to do that,” Sherry East of the South Carolina Education Association said.

Teachers said this issue needs to be prioritized over everything else in education.

“If you’re concerned about what is being taught or not taught in South Carolina schools, you should be more concerned about staffing because if we can’t find teachers, nothing’s being taught,” Kelly said. “If you think that school choice is the solution to education reform in South Carolina, you should be even more concerned about the educator shortage because I don’t care if you call a school a public school, a charter school, or a private school: If it doesn’t have great teachers, it’s not a great school.”

Earlier this year, state lawmakers raised South Carolina’s starting teacher salary by $4,000, up to $40,000, and passed legislation that guarantees all elementary and special education teachers a half-hour of unencumbered time daily, beginning next school year.

Kelly listed increased pay that is competitive with the private sector, enhanced benefits like paid parental leave, and decreased maximum class sizes among other policies that should be instituted next at either the state or district levels.

In response to this report, the South Carolina Department of Education noted steps it has taken in recent years to address the shortage, including allocating federal dollars toward educator recruitment, retention, and preparation programs. The department said it also continues to support efforts to increase teacher pay and make it easier for retired teachers to return to the classroom, among others.

“Every child in South Carolina deserves a high-quality educator when they walk into their classroom,” State Superintendent of Education Molly Spearman said in a statement. “This report yet again provides evidence of the crisis our school districts face across the state in recruiting and retaining teachers. It will take time and collaboration to address these issues, and I call on our state and local leaders to come together and help us ensure that our students will have quality educators who will prepare them for college, career, and citizenship.”

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