Governor proposes $3,000 raise for all S.C. teachers

Updated: Dec. 10, 2019 at 10:44 PM EST
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - In a move to try to get South Carolina out of the bottom states in the nation as far as teacher pay, Gov. Henry McMaster announced he wants to give all teachers a raise.

A $3,000 raise for every teacher in the state will be part of the governor’s proposed budget for the 2020-21 fiscal year.

The Governor said this proposal is a cornerstone to his executive budget set to be released in January.

After his announcement, we spoke with members from the teacher advocacy group SC for ED. Lisa Ellis is a founder of the group and a teacher in Richland County. She said, "It's a solid number and we're excited to see that go into his budget this year."

The Governor's Office said the change would boost South Carolina into the top 25 states in the nation for average teacher pay, according to the National Education Association. South Carolina was ranked 41st in 2019.

If lawmakers agree to the plan, the average teacher salary in 2020 would be $56,621, the Governor said.

Steve Nuzum is a teacher and member of SC for ED. He said, "Anything we can do to increase salary for the lower bands is good for retention."

In 2019, teachers got a 4% salary increase across the board.

Governor McMaster said the $3,000 increase roughly equals out to an average increase of 7% to teacher salaries. He said, "We chose a flat amount instead of a percentage because it will have a greater impact in the classroom and also in the boardrooms across the country."

Nuzum said he would have preferred to see an across the board percentage increase similar to what teachers saw in 2019.

The proposal would also raise the minimum starting pay for new teachers to $38,000.

“By continuing to invest in our classroom teachers, we are sending a strong message about South Carolina across the nation and the globe,” McMaster said. “We are taking bold steps in education reform to produce the next generation’s workforce and to maintain our state’s competitive advantage for new jobs and investment.”

Ellis and Nuzum hope lawmakers continue to work on other issues in education like class size, standardized testing, and accountability. “The willingness from lawmakers to do that is reaffirming. We do want to make things better for students in South Carolina,” Ellis said.

McMaster said the initiative would cost the state $211 million in the next fiscal year if approved. It would be funded entirely by the state.

SC for Ed Board issued statement about the proposal saying:

“The Board of SC for Ed is encouraged by the Governor’s request for an increase in teacher pay during the December 10, 2019 press conference. We are hopeful that this stems from a recognition of the pay gap that has existed for many years between the teachers of South Carolina and the rest of the country. We would also hope that the Governor and our Legislators understand that inadequate pay is just one of the issues facing South Carolina teachers today, and they will listen to the input of teachers’ voices as they look for solutions to overcrowded classrooms, underfunded school buildings and unnecessary testing that takes away from teaching and learning. Additionally, we are hopeful that all state and district workers will receive a raise with the additional recurring funds that will now be added to our state budget, as each is vital to our state’s well-being. We look forward to the continued responsiveness to these long overdue needs.”

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