Amy Carter, the 2022 South Carolina teacher of the year, raised concerns about teacher retention at a State House news conference Tuesday.
Representatives from The Palmetto State Teachers Association on Tuesday called for more compensation and respect for teachers in South Carolina.
The State House news conference was held on the organization’s Teacher A.C.T. Day, which aims to attract talent, address compensation, and encourage trust in educators.
This comes after the Senate Finance Committee scaled back a proposed $4,000 starting salary increase for teachers.
The House proposal, which was endorsed by Gov. Henry McMaster, would have increased starting salary to $40,000. Speakers said they were disappointed in the decision to decrease the proposal by $2,000.
PSTA is the largest teacher advocacy group in South Carolina and encourages better working conditions and compensation for teachers.
Patrick Kelly, PSTA’s director for government affairs, outlined three main concerns, the first being to “attract talent to the teaching profession.”
“If there’s not great teachers, it’s not a great school,” Kelly said. “It doesn’t matter what curriculum our students are taught. If there’s not great teacher, there is not great teaching in that classroom.”
Amy Carter, current South Carolina State Teacher of the Year, said that recruitment and retention rates are low. She teaches a class called Teacher Cadets at Chapin High School, where high school students take a year-long class learning how to be teachers and getting classroom experience.She said she has noticed many of her former Teacher Cadets who went onto education leaving the profession after only a few years.
“The burden of the classroom went well beyond teaching lessons and supporting students,” said Carter, explaining why her former students left teaching.
Betsy Portune, Williston District 29 Teacher of the Year, highlighted the teaching shortage in South Carolina, stating that 1,121 classrooms in South Carolina are vacant and that schools are having trouble finding critical support staff such as substitutes and bus drivers.
Kelly said that teacher compensation doesn’t compare to other professions that require four-year degrees and certifications. The PSTA is supportive of the House bill to raise teacher salaries to $40,000 per year, but sees it as a starting point and would like to see it raised to $50,000 in the near future.
The PSTA also calls for building trust for teachers as professionals, which would include unencumbered planning time for teachers. Currently, teachers have little planning time and are expected to take on additional responsibilities during their breaks.
The speakers highlighted the importance of listening to teachers, citing State Superintendent of Education Molly Spearman as a champion of hearing teachers’ voices.
Betsy Portune, president of PSTA, was removed from teaching in an accelerated elementary program and placed in a sixth grade English Language Arts class with two-weeks notice.
Patrick Kelly, PSTA director of government affairs and an AP government teacher at Blythewood High School, calls for the S.C. legislature to take action to combat the current education crisis.
ABOUT THE JOURNALISTS
Abigail Brandon is a multimedia journalist from Columbia, South Carolina, with a passion for radio. She has worked at UofSC’s college radio station WUSC as a DJ and as a reporter for WUSC News. She is known for telling a good story and plans to transfer that talent into telling engaging and informative audio stories.
Cora Stone is a senior multimedia journalism student from Lexington, South Carolina. She has professional experience as an account manager with The Carolina Agency and as a news writer for The Daily Gamecock, and enjoys telling stories from diverse perspectives. After graduation, she plans to teach English in Providence, Rhode Island, with Teach for America.