COLUMBIA, S.C. (WCSC) - A new push to get South Carolina teachers a yearly pay increase is sitting in a Senate committee.
But the speed at which the bill has moved through the Statehouse is a great sign according to teachers who have been waiting for their yearly increase, also known as a step increase, to return.
Normally, state teachers get a salary increase every year. But because of the pandemic, the roughly 2% increase for 2020-2021 was put on hold.
But some of the teachers who’ve been watching the bill’s progress, like 2021 South Carolina Teacher of the Year Sara Gams, say it’s a first step toward lawmakers paying more attention to education disparities.
“They have honored their commitment to their teachers and we’re grateful. And I would just say we need to continue to take a hard look at the way we fund education and consider other means to make sure that we do get more equitable distribution of funds, and that we’re providing for our school districts that don’t have the ability to create that local revenue that can supplement, things like teacher pay and building maintenance,” Gams said.
Gams says the way teachers are paid in the state is complicated. Minimums are set by the state and are based on experience in the classroom, the highest degree a teacher has, and where they teach.
But Gams says this pay increase isn’t just about morale for teachers in classrooms, but also about making a step to keep them there.
“There are more teachers leaving than there are coming in. So, we’ve got to think about how to do something about that how to encourage our bright young students to become teachers and enter those classrooms and change lives and help our students, and part of that is compensation,” Gams said. “So, yes, we absolutely have to look at what we’re paying our teachers and making sure that we’re paying them for the level of complexity and accordance that this job requires.”
If the bill passes the committee and the full Senate and Gov. Henry McMaster signs it, educators will see back pay hit their accounts by the end of the school year.
According to the state Department of Education, this is a bill aimed at educator pay increase and does not necessarily help pay cafeteria workers and administrators.