COLUMBIA, SC (WSPA) — According to a new report by the Center for Educator Recruitment, Retention and Advancement, 977 South Carolina educators have left their jobs during the middle of the current school year.

CERRA usually conducts a supply-and-demand report every year in the winter, but in 2021 and this year it released mid-year reports as well.

The most-recent report shows the number of teacher vacancies reported statewide was higher in February 2022 than it was at the start of the school year. Researchers said there are currently 1,121 vacant teaching positions. School districts reported 1,063 open positions during the fall.

Educator groups in South Carolina said they aren’t surprised by the findings and said they should serve as a call to action for state lawmakers and local school boards.

“If this many people left, what is it going to look like in June or August next year? Where are we going to find teachers?” South Carolina Education Association President Sherry East said.

East said members who have resigned during the school year have told her that working conditions have made the job difficult.

“We are losing teachers every year,” East said. “We have a shortage. But now it’s at the magnitude of crisis level.”

Patrick Kelly, director of governmental affairs for the Palmetto State Teachers Association said it is having a negative impact on students’ academic achievement and their “behavioral” and “social well-being.”

State lawmakers are currently considering giving teachers pay bumps and raising the starting salary up from $36,000 to $40,000. There is also a bill moving through the state House that would give elementary and special education teachers daily unencumbered time.

Kelly said lawmakers could do more to address the issues teachers are facing and should prioritize fixing this problem.

“If you’re concerned about what is being taught or what’s not being taught in classrooms right now, you should be more alarmed nothing is being taught in about 1100 classrooms because we can’t fill a vacancy,” Kelly said.

According to CERRA, 178 of the 1121 vacant teacher positions were newly created jobs for the 2021-22 school year that have yet to be filled. Therefore, most vacancies occurred as a result of teacher resignations.