COLUMBIA, S.C. (WBTW) — South Carolina school districts are now required to provide up to six weeks of paid maternity leave and two weeks of paternal leave for employees due to the birth, adoption, or fostering of a child.

Gov. Henry McMaster held a ceremonial bill signing Wednesday for the legislation. He was joined by State Superintendent of Education Ellen Weaver and members of the General Assembly.

“When it comes to a student’s academic achievement, we know that quality classroom teachers matter more than any other aspect of schooling,” McMaster said in a news release. “This policy, coupled with a 41% increase in minimum starting teacher pay since 2018, will help us continue to improve our ability to recruit and retain the best teachers.” 

Employees do not have to exhaust all other forms of leave before being eligible to take paid parental leave. 

“We are going to do everything we can to support our teachers and their professional journey,” Weaver said. “With this legislation, not only do we enable teachers to grow their own families while they grow their students, but we retain them while they are doing that.” 

South Carolina Rep. Neal Collins said the legislation “is bigger than paid family leave.”

“The challenge of the 21st century is recruiting and retaining teachers,” he said. “It is up to us to make sure the best and brightest continue to enter the teaching profession. That is why this is a wonderful opportunity.”

McMaster signed the bill into law on May 12, and it went into effect on June 26.

Six years ago, the minimum starting teacher salary was $30,113. Today, the minimum starting salary is $42,500, with the goal to increase the minimum starting salary to at least $50,000 by 2026.

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Dennis Bright is a digital producer at News13. Dennis is a West Virginia native and graduate of Marshall University. He has won copyediting and journalism awards in West Virginia and Ohio. Follow Dennis on Twitter and read more of his work here.