MARION COUNTY, S.C. (WBTW) — Most school districts in the Grand Strand and Pee Dee areas have a significant gap between how many Black students attend versus how many Black teachers are in classrooms, according to data from the South Carolina Department of Education for the 2019-20 school year.
Of the 11 school districts within News13’s South Carolina coverage area — which includes Darlington, Dillon, Florence, Horry, Marion and Marlboro counties — only three have a less than 20 percentage point difference between its percent of Black students and its percent of Black teachers.
The largest disparity is in the Marion County School District, where 76.89% of students are Black and 34.62% of teachers are Black, creating a 42.27 percentage point difference, according to data from the South Carolina Department of Education.
Deborah Wimberly, a spokeswoman for the district, said that the district’s data shows that 47% of its teachers were Black during the 2019-20 school year and that 53% of the teachers it hired that year were teachers of color. She did not provide a reason for the discrepancy between the state’s statistics and the district’s.
When asked if the district had initiatives or incentives to recruit more teachers of color, Wimberly said she would check with the human resources department. The information was not provided by the publication date of this article.
The Florence County School District 4 had the smallest disparity, with 87.91% of teachers who were Black, compared to 81.5% of students who were Black during the last school year.
A spokesperson for Florence County School District 4 — which will consolidate with Florence County School District 1 starting in July 2022 — did not return a call for comment.
Across the state, 15.49% of teachers were Black during the 2019-21 school year, according to data from the South Carolina Department of Education. About a third of students in South Carolina are Black.
A district’s percentage of Black educators is largely influenced by its area, according to Liana Calloway, the president of the South Carolina Alliance of Black Educators, who said that districts with more white students are more likely to have a large percentage of white educators.
“The demographics of teachers are really based on the demographics of students,” she said.
Callaway said the organization wants to create a pipeline where Black students graduate from high school, attend college and then enter the field of education. It collaborates with the Call Me MISTER program, which aims to increase the number of teachers from diverse backgrounds by providing tuition assistance through a loan forgiveness program, offering support systems and helping with job placements.
She also highlighted the state’s teacher loan forgiveness program, which is available for educators who go on to work in locations labeled as a critical need area.
Callaway said she’d like to see teacher assistants in classrooms return to college to become teachers, and said the alliance will continue to collaborate with districts to increase the number of Black educators.
Editor’s Note: The story was updated to clarify Deborah Wimberly’s response to a question about Marion County School district’s recruitment initiatives.