South Carolina classrooms are facing a burgeoning dilemma.
The state doesnít have enough teachers to fill vacancies that are created annually from retirements and people either moving out of state or quitting the profession.
About 4,000 teacher vacancies occur every year. Thatís a lot of turnover and a lot of headaches for an education system that typically isnít considered among the best in the nation. Colleges in South Carolina also graduate only about 2,000 education majors yearly, clearly not enough to fill those 4,000 annual openings.
Fortunately, a newly created S.C. Senate panel is considering what should be seen as the best solution for recruiting and retaining teachers Ė a salary increase.
The committee took testimony Tuesday, according to the Associated Press, on how the state can encourage more college students to become public school teachers, keep good teachers in the classroom and more quickly remove incompetent teachers.
A salary increase to retain and attract teachers is a position weíve advocated on this page before, but itís a positive sign that lawmakers in Columbia are actually trying to move such a proposal forward.
The aim of the committee appears to be to introduce legislation in the upcoming session to fix this problem, which is a plus.
Ultimately, the process will be greatly aided by having support from the governor.
Republican S.C. Gov. Nikki Haleyís stance on increasing pay has consistently come with a caveat, although she appears open to the idea. She has vetoed pay raises repeatedly in budgets over the last few years because the funds were non-recurring, according to her spokesman Doug Mayer. However, she did approve $38.6 million in new, recurring funds for teachersí salaries in 2012. Her opponent, Democratic Party candidate Vincent Sheheen has been a clear advocate of increasing teacher pay, and has vowed to raise salaries to the national average if elected in November.
According to the Washington Post, the panel will also look at tying salary to performance instead of how long a teacher has taught and what his or her education level is.
This would be an effective way forward, and a proposal Haley has advocated.
The governor, as well as State Superintendent Mick Zais campaigned on basing teacher pay, at least in part, on how their students perform. While this can be difficult to initiate, itís also vital that teachers are effective educators.
As the panel moves ahead, itís important to remember that these lawmakers are wisely considering feedback from educators and administrators in the state.
Bernadette Hampton, president of the South Carolina Education Association, told the Washington Post that sheís glad lawmakers are coming to teachers for advice, which is something that hasnít happened in the past.
ďI think that teachersí ideas, voices, and opinions are not included,Ē Hampton said. ďI think that if that would change, that could help.Ē
Finding the most sensible path forward to improve our classrooms starts with a collective discussion. If anything, itís positive these lawmakers are garnering such responses and looking for ways to improve the stateís education system in the future.
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