McMaster pushes overhaul for SC’s school funding formula, clarifies $4K boost to minimum salaries

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Published: Mar. 28, 2022 at 8:24 PM EDT
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - Gov. Henry McMaster and two former state superintendents of education called South Carolina’s approach to funding its schools “opaque,” “convoluted,” and “fractured” on Monday at the State House, urging state lawmakers to approve a major overhaul to simplify how schools are funded.

According to McMaster, each district would receive more money in the upcoming state budget, with the proposal included, than they did in the current budget, averaging to a 5.6% increase.

The governor said $227 million more overall would go to schools.

Under the plan, how much money each school receives would be based on the statewide average student-to-teacher ratio, which is calculated at 11.2 in the budget passed by the House of Representatives earlier this month.

The proposal also increases the money allocated to schools for students living in poverty and with disabilities and raises the statewide minimum teacher salary at every cell on the schedule by $4,000. South Carolina sets a minimum amount that a teacher can make at different “steps,” based on their education and years of experience.

The state would also roll out an online dashboard for the public to see how each district spends its money.

“That is information parents need to know,” McMaster said. “It’ll open the door to them to understand what is happening in their school.”

Patrick Kelly of the Palmetto State Teachers Association said they support this focus on transparency and the increased money for schools that teach a greater number of students living in poverty and with disabilities.

“But again, the devil’s in the details. The total pie has to be big enough to where the slice that each district gets is going to be enough to meet the needs of their students,” Kelly said.

Kelly said while this proposal handles long-term structural changes to school funding, it does not fully address the most pressing, immediate problem facing schools, teacher and staff shortages, an issue he said the state and districts will need to figure out.

“They need to collaborate, and they need to get creative to find a way to ensure that every school-based employee is receiving a competitive pay raise this year, regardless of which district they work in,” Kelly said.

On Monday, McMaster clarified that not every teacher in the state would automatically receive a raise under the proposal, as some districts are already paying above the new proposed salary minimums.

The governor said this plan would provide them the flexibility to determine if they would want to spend their funding on raises beyond the minimum.

The Senate will next have an opportunity to consider and potentially change education funding in the state budget when senators begin their budget debate in the coming weeks.

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