COLUMBIA, S.C. (WSPA) — A new report shows teacher salaries are not keeping up with inflation across the country and in South Carolina.
The National Education Association released a new educator pay study this week. Researchers said South Carolina ranks 42nd in the nation for average starting teacher salaries at $37,704.
“We really would hope lawmakers here in these next few weeks really sit down at the table and see what is the best way to invest in South Carolina and see that our people are being taken care of,” said South Carolina Education Association President Sherry East.
Currently, state lawmakers are considering raising the minimum starting salary for teachers. Just how much is still left to be decided.
The House passed a budget plan in March that raised the starting teacher salary to $40,000 statewide. It would also increase the minimum salary steps in the state pay schedule.
The Senate is debating its budget plan this week. It would raise the starting salary to $38,000 a year, up from $36,000.
These increases would impact school districts paying salaries below the proposed minimums.
East stressed that this is one way for lawmakers to address the teacher shortage crisis in South Carolina.
According to East, lawmakers need to look at increasing pay for all teachers across the board, not just increases to minimum pay.
“Currently, it’s not going to be enough to entice people to stay,” East said.
Sen. Mike Fanning (D-Fairfield) agrees. He had proposed amendments to the Senate’s budget plan that would increase pay across the board. Those amendments were voted down, but Fanning said this report sheds light on an ongoing issue.
“You can’t look at attracting teachers in the profession if you’re not trying to retain the teachers we already have. If we’re bringing people in and losing more, we won’t be able to catch up,” Fanning said. “We want to be able that pay increase we give to our beginner teachers that we’re also giving that pay increase to our existing teacher to keep them in the classroom.”
Other senators in favor of the $38,000 raise argued a proposed income tax cut and rebate in the senate’s spending plan would also benefit teachers.
The Senate is expected to wrap up debate on the budget plan on Sunday.