State lawmakers hope to combat SC’s teacher shortage

State lawmakers hope to combat SC’s teacher shortage
All students at Dorchester School District 2 will be back in school full time by the end of February. (Source: Live 5/Generic)

COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - The bill South Carolina senators approved Tuesday to move teachers higher up in the state’s vaccine rollout also contains an amendment designed to help fight a teacher shortage.

A December report states there are about 700 open jobs in school districts across the state.

Retired educators are currently able to fill those slots and make up to $50,000 per year, but that is only because of the pandemic.

“There’s no question we are going to have a teacher, labor shortage as we leave this pandemic and move into regular five-day instruction,” Republican Sen. Gregg Hembree, of Horry County, said. “We will also need additional resources, human resources, to get our children caught up.”

But in a few months, the amount retirees could make coming back to the classroom would drop to about $10,000 per year.

“We got the money, the federal government sent about a $1 billion to us to work on that catchup, but we are going to need the people to do it,” Hembree said. “So we are going to have to be creative in finding people who are qualified who may not be in the current labor pool.”

Retired Upstate teacher Karen Kennedy says lawmakers could help bring teachers back to the workforce if they extended that earning cap for three more years.

“Folks retire because they need a break, I think it’s a mental kind of break. To, I don’t know, take a deep breath,” she said. “And I think sometimes if teachers maybe sometimes get a little space between the last time they were in the classroom, maybe it was a year or so, maybe they caught their breath and are more willing to go back to the classroom.”

The 700 job vacancies the state reported at the start of the year represented a 26% increase from the previous year. The data shows 6,000 teachers left the workforce, about 1,000 of whom retired.

“There are days that I still feel like I have a lot to give, especially when I go and visit classrooms,” Kennedy said. “It’s kind of fun and you think, ‘I can do this, or I would do it this way,’ So I feel like we all still have a lot to offer whether it is helping new teachers and folks in the classroom whatever that may look like or even going back to the classroom in some form or another, but I think the burn out is real.”

Some lawmakers and teachers say the amendment moves the state in the right direction to fighting the teacher shortage.

If it doesn’t pass this time, lawmakers who approve this plan may add it to other bills.

Gov. Henry McMaster tweeted Tuesday night shortly after senators unanimously approved the bill to move teachers up in the vaccine rollout that he against moving them ahead of people 65 and older for a vaccine.

“Seniors are getting vaccinated in greater numbers each day,” he said on Twitter. “Breaking faith by slowing down, disrupting, canceling, or delaying any senior’s vaccination shot is a bad idea with deadly consequences.”

Educators say they want the state to do both at the same time.

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