South Carolina faced with superintendent vote amid teacher shortage
COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - Students in South Carolina are starting a new school year but returning to an old problem.
The state has a well-documented teacher shortage which will be back on display this fall.
The issue is pronounced in Richland County, where Richland School District 1 reports being short of 181 teachers as of Aug. 2, while Richland School District 2 reports 103 vacancies as of July 28.
This year parents get to vote on who helps address the issue.
Democrat Lisa Ellis and Republican Ellen Weaver are both vying for the office of State Superintendent of Education and have both made teacher recruitment and retention a priority in their campaigns.
The office does not control the state budget nor state law but can serve as a bully pulpit for the winner to help encourage districts and lawmakers to take the superintendent’s desired stances.
Both candidates are running to increase teacher pay, but the winner would need the legislature to approve such a move. It’s something lawmakers have acted on in the past.
Weaver is running on teacher professional development, community involvement in schools (including faith groups and veterans) and studying alternative paths to teacher certification.
“I’ve never once heard a teacher tell me that it was that third-year pedagogy class that made them a great teacher. They always talk about another teacher that mentored them or a principal who coached them.” she said. “So, I think that if we can find more ways to get teachers into the classroom earlier, we’ll have a better chance of equipping them with real world skills that they need to not only enter the classroom but to stay in the classroom.”
Ellis is running on higher salaries for essential staff, reformed teacher contracts, communication with districts, and reducing bureaucracy.
Ellis campaign communications consultant Emily Mayer said Ellis’ goal would be to leverage the office to help implement a culture change.
“I think we need to start encouraging people to change the narrative around what it is to be a public-school teacher. I think as a society we have kind of scared people away who might have the heart and the attention and would be a fantastic teacher but just maybe have been dissuaded due some of the discourse that has taken place,” she said. “So, Lisa believes firmly that education is not something that needs to be a political game, that’s something that she has proven by not being a politician but being a classroom teacher in this race.”
A Center Educator Recruitment, Retention and Advancement (CERRA) spreadsheet shows the number of graduates with degrees for teaching have remained largely stagnant since 2017.
Early voting for the November general election (including the superintendent race) is scheduled to begin on Oct. 24.
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