Teacher pay increase could improve retention, recruitment rates for SC school districts

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HORRY COUNTY, SC (WBTW) – South Carolina lawmakers are proposing a $3,000 pay increase for public school teachers, a decision that would push the state above the Southeastern average for the first time in seven years.

Horry County School District officials say one of the school board’s top priorities is retaining and recruiting high-quality teachers every year. If Senate leaders decide to pass a bill among the education reform, teacher salaries could increase for a consecutive year giving Horry County schools a competitive advantage. 

Horry County Schools does not only compete against other school districts and counties. The district competes against states along the East Coast.

“A lot of our candidates when we hire new teachers come from up north, a lot from the eastern states, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Ohio. Teachers are looking and comparing our district to other states so we need to make sure we are not only competitive in Horry County and South Carolina but also with the East Coast as well,” HCS spokesperson, Lisa Bourcier said. 

“We put a lot of effort toward that as far as measures and pay structure and we want to make sure we are competitive in all measures,” Bourcier said. 

SC teacher average salary timeline 

 The minimum starting teacher salary with no experience necessary and a bachelor’s degree is $35,000. Horry County’s starting teacher salary is $37,826. Average state teacher salary is estimated to be $52,917, approximately $290 below the Southeastern average.

SOURCE: SC Department of Education

Before the recession hit over a decade ago, South Carolina’s education departments took pride in an above-average ranking among the Southeastern territory in terms of pay.

Up until a few years ago, stagnant pay was evident in teacher salary. Over the last three years, all South Carolina teacher salaries, every level of experience and every level of degree has seen a 7% increase. Starting teacher pay is now up to a 17% increase to an average of $35,000. Officials aren’t stopping there as they look to hike teacher salaries for another consecutive year. 

The South Carolina Department of Education aims to reach a teacher base salary of $40,000 over the next few years. Officials say the decision for state lawmakers to substantially increase teacher salaries would help tremendously in recruitment and retention rates.

“Our agency submits a budget request and we have asked for a minimum of 165 million. The governor has a proposal to give a $3,000 raise to every teacher and then there are a couple of senators and House members that have their proposals as well,” South Carolina Department of Education Chief Communication Officer Ryan Brown, tells News13. 

South Carolina’s current teacher recruitment and retention rates

A report shows, generally, teachers who leave the profession typically leave within the first five years, the years’ teachers earn the lowest pay. The South Carolina Department of Education officials say starting teacher pay may be an issue. 

“This year school districts reported 556 vacancies for the 2019-2020 school year. That is down from over 600 the last year, which is a positive thing but obviously, 556 is 556 classrooms that did not have a teacher… which can lead to larger class sizes and other issues,” Brown tells News13. 

The Center for Educator Recruitment, Retention, & Advancement released an annual supply and demand report with data they collect from school districts. This was the first year where we have seen a decline of people leaving teaching positions and more people going into it. 

SOURCE: CERRA

“So I would like to think pay has factored into that,” Brown said. “Hopefully some other things have factored into the data as there is more that needs to be done instead of just pay, but it certainly looks like it’s helping the trend go upwards in terms of people leaving the profession. 

Benefits of raising teacher salary 

Increasing teacher salary anywhere between the proposed $3,000 raise or 5% could bring more qualified teacher candidates to classrooms. South Carolina is among the fastest growing states in the country, growing in population and economic development.

Officials say many spouses moving here are teachers and see more candidates coming in from out of state. “Our hope would be yes as we work to better education, teacher pay, and other issues facing the profession that people would move here strictly to teach,” Brown said. 

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