COLUMBIA, S.C. (WBTW) – South Carolina teachers could be getting a pay raise soon, if a bill passes the Senate Committee.

South Carolina public school teacher Dottie Adams teaches 8th-grade science and is in her 20th year of teaching.

Adams is among teachers across the state who usually receives an annual salary increase, known as a step increase, that contributes to retirement and is based on how long you stay in the system.

Due to the pandemic, step increases are paused for this year unless South Carolina legislators pass the bill, H. 3609.

“This year, even though I technically have 19 years of experience, I am getting paid at 18 years of experience because the salary steps are frozen, and so by reinstating those, basically the legislature is fulfilling that obligation that essentially happens every year,” Adams said.

An estimated 2% pay increase for 2020-2021 public school teachers across the Palmetto State was put on hold in the fall due to pandemic-related budget concerns.

Adams says increasing teacher salaries does more than help financially. It also attracts and helps retain the right people in the teaching profession.

“S.C. for Ed has wanted to push teacher salary closer to the Southeastern and National average to push closer to jobs that require bachelor’s degrees,” Adams said.

The freeze on teacher step increases moves the education group in the opposite direction of their goal.

While teachers advocate against lawmakers for more pay year after year, like the 2019 teacher march at the State House, Adams says a pay raise is needed more during the pandemic.

Teachers say a pay increase would help financially, but it would also boost morale, boost teacher retention during a shortage and boost classroom performance.

“The state has to make the connection between strong, intelligent, hardworking teachers in a classroom equals students who can do well. We, as a state, have missed that connection. We think our kids are going to do great, but we are going to treat the teachers badly,” Adams said.

Adams tells News13 if teachers are worried about their own financial situation, it’s challenging to come to work every day and give of themselves the curriculum, let alone meet all of those social and emotional needs that we know students have.

For the salary increase to return this year, this bill needs to pass the committee and full senate before getting Governor McMaster’s final signature.

The reinstatement of step increases would cost nearly $50 million total. Legislators say the funds would come from a contingency reserve fund for the 2020-2021 academic year.

If passed, teachers could see that amount in their bank account by the end of the school year.