‘This is not what we signed up for’: SC teachers lobby for education reform

Around 50 teachers met with several state representatives to discuss bi-partisan legislation expected to be introduced next week.

'This is not what we signed up for': SC teachers lobby for education reform

COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - Members of the South Carolina nonprofit SC For Ed met with state representatives on Wednesday in an effort to have their voices heard regarding the state of public education.

Around 50 teachers met with several state representatives to discuss bi-partisan legislation expected to be introduced next week. The bill, titled “Teacher Bill of Rights” was drafted by teachers within the group and outlines ten guidelines that they hope will set a standard for policy moving forward.

“People say this is what we signed up for and this is not in any shape or form what we signed up for,” Mary Sue Worthy, a teacher with SC for Ed, said.

Worthy has been teaching in South Carolina for 26 years and said she’s seen a dramatic shift in how teachers are viewed and treated.

“We have never had as much bureaucratic stuff to do as we do now,” she said. “Meetings, endless paperwork, data crunching even standardized tests. It all takes away from our main goal which is educating students in the classroom.”

Worthy said because teachers are forced to teach to the test, students once interested in learning are now only concerned with memorizing what they need to know for the test.

“If you can’t learn or don’t know how to think, that is going to affect you down the line not only in college but in the workforce,” she said.

Saani Perry agrees and said with so much focus on standardized testing, students don’t receive the individualized attention they need while in class.

“Everything is about test scores,” he said. “You want to look good on that report card, you want to look good period. So the point is for students to grow but to what point do we take away how we teach and making sure we get to every student when we’re teaching to a test.”

South Carolina is facing a teacher shortage as well. Data from the Center for Educator Recruitment, Retention and Advancement shows 1,685 students graduated from South Carolina teacher colleges in the 2016-2017 school year, a 30 percent drop from a high of 2,415 in 2012-2013.

The data also shows 1 in 10 teachers during the 2016-2017 school year left and did not return to any South Carolina teaching position.

“It doesn’t surprise me at all,” Worthy said. “Why would a graduate want to come work 80 hours a week for little pay and have to ask their parents to help with a car payment or insurance? We are handicapped because we can’t provide for our families like we should be able to.”

Representative Seth Rose attended the meeting with the nonprofit. He said he is optimistic about what lies ahead for public education in the upcoming legislative session.

“An organization that has 20,000 teachers that says we’re very close to having a walkout, that’s something that is very scary that we’ve gotten to this point,” he said. “But on the other side of that, I’m optimistic. This outlines guidelines moving forward that if people vote in favor of, they should be willing to support the funding needed to make it happen.”

Rose pointed to a surplus the state legislature will face in the upcoming session and said there will be many different causes looking to take advantage of extra money.

“I think public education if not at the top, is right there near it,” he said. “We have to do something or the implications down the line are not good for our state.”

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