Amid a record shortage of teachers, the state agency that oversees public schools in South Carolina wants lawmakers to spend about 2% more on teacher salaries next year.
In its annual budget request, which it submitted in September and made public this month, the Education Department asked lawmakers to spend an additional $75 million on state aid for classrooms, which could be used to pay teachers.
Under a new funding formula approved earlier this year, districts have flexibility in how they spend the money — they may or may not use it to increase teachers — but if they had to put it all toward a wage increase, it would be roughly 2 percent. % increase in teacher salaries.
“The new formula was supposed to be simpler, with a lot of lines folded, which is good, but at the same time, in situations like this, it makes it more difficult to say, we’re putting this to benefit,” said outgoing state director Molly Spearman. Teachers’ salaries.
The proposal comes as South Carolina opened the school year with a record number of 1,474 teacher vacancies, up 39% from last year, according to the Center on Teacher Recruitment, Retention and Advancement.
While a 2% salary increase will help teacher recruitment and retention efforts, the Palmetto State Teachers Association said more needs to be done.
“It’s just not enough in scope, given the teacher shortage,” said Patrick Kelly, PSTA’s director of government affairs. “It would take a massive shock to the system to break the cycle of teacher turnover that we’re seeing in this case and 2% simply won’t make it.”
State lawmakers earlier this year raised the minimum starting wage for teachers to $40,000 from $36,000. The PSTA called the increase a good move, but said starting teacher salaries must reach $50,000 by 2027 if districts are to compete with the private sector.
“Until we get to that point, compensation will always be an issue,” Kelly said.
Finding more money to pay a teacher next year shouldn’t be a problem.
If budget projections are accurate, South Carolina may be able to raise teachers’ salaries by more than the Department of Education requires. State economists estimate that budgeters will have an additional $3.5 billion to allocate when developing the spending plan. Of this amount, it will be US$754 million annually, which can be used to pay running costs such as salaries and programs.
“I’m going to guess and hope they (the General Assembly) are able to do more than that ($75 million), because it looks as if 2023 is going to be a strong year for revenue for South Carolina,” said Spearman.
In addition to the teacher shortage, the state cannot find enough bus drivers to ferry students to and from school, because the drivers can make more in the private sector. In some cases, drivers are forced to take two or even three daily routes.
The Department of Education has stated that it wants to increase bus driver pay from $9.12 to $13 an hour, which would require an additional US$31 million. School districts can choose to pay bus drivers more money with local funds.
“We have brand new buses sitting in the parking lots because we can’t find people to drive the buses,” Spearman said.
The Education Department also recommended that lawmakers increase the teacher’s salary by $50 to $350, which would cost the state about $3 million.
“This increase will reduce the out-of-pocket costs teachers often pay to adequately equip their classrooms,” the Education Department wrote in its budget request.
Department of Education applications
The Education Department had other proposals in its annual budget requests. Here are some of the headlines:
▪ $2.1 million to recruit and retain Department of Education staff
▪ $14 million for school district grants for innovative programs in rural and disadvantaged areas.
▪ $20 million for early childhood education
▪ $29 million for new school buses
▪ $150 million for capital projects in underprivileged school districts on a need-based basis.