Teachers gearing up for new school year and another year of advocating for reform

Teachers gearing up for new school year and another year of advocating for reform

COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - About one hundred educators from across the state were in Columbia Wednesday.

They all got together for a back to school Pep Rally held by the South Carolina Education Association. During the event, they received some free supplies for their classrooms and some lessons on advocacy.

Teachers we spoke with say they’re excited about the small changes they’ve seen between this school year and last school year. Albert Jones, an elementary school teacher, said, “seeing the 4% raise was a blessing. And something positive.”

Jones said there is a lot of work left to be done. “The amount of time energy and effort. Staying late hours and coming in early.”

Jones like the dozens of teachers at the Pep Rally is returning for another year of teaching. Lauren Pellington is a special education teacher. She said she’s looking forward to being with her students again.

Pellington said teacher organizations have a lot of momentum right now while they try to tackle issues like mental health in schools and smaller class sizes. “We just need a lot of support from everybody not necessarily just the administration, but from the districts, from the representatives and the higher-ups. We need to be on the same page for the kids.”

One of the big problems South Carolina schools face right now is teacher retention. At the end of the school year in 2018, the Center for Educator Recruitment Retention and Advancement (CERRA) said more than 5,000 teachers left the classroom in South Carolina. School districts across the state reported 620 teacher vacancies when the school started last August.

No official numbers are available right now, but some teacher organizations say there could be hundreds of open positions once again when school starts up. Lekeshi Wormley is a high school teacher. She said sometimes these vacancies can put a strain on the teachers in the classroom. “It impacts classroom sizes. I don’t have an issue with it, but some teachers have issues with not being able to take restroom breaks and they have to have a colleague come over and take over their class while they use the restroom.”

The state’s Department of Education said open positions can be filled through a variety of options even when the school year starts. Districts can hire teachers moving into the state after the school year starts, retired educators, early college graduates or teachers from alternative teacher programs.

According to CERRA, they won’t have an idea of how many vacancies there are statewide until districts fill out the supply and demand survey.

Officials with CarolinaTIP, say 100% of the teachers in their program, about 70, are returning to the classroom this year.

Copyright 2019 WIS. All rights reserved.