South Carolina Senate Mulls Ways to Keep Best Teachers

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Senators in South Carolina are considering raising teachers’ salaries, forgiving student loans and paying teacher mentors a stipend as a means of elevating the profession and holding on to good teachers.

Leader of the Senate Wes Hayes stated that the initiatives should be targeted in the rural districts which lacked high-quality teachers. Rural district teachers were shown to receive a lower pay in comparison to teachers in urban and suburban locale, writes Allie Gross of Education Dive.

The senators highlighted high debt as the biggest disincentive for students not taking up a teaching career, and promised to strengthen student loan programs, claiming it to be “a backdoor way to pay more.”

Senator Wes Hayes’s panel set no values for its new plans, but has sent them to the Senate Finance Committee. It has also called out to colleges and districts to cooperate with the Education Oversight Committee in assessing the state’s teacher requirements in the future.

Under the status quo, programs are limited and education majors must seek upfront application for loans that are gradually cleared during their teaching period.

Ranked 10th highest nationwide in college graduates’ average debt by the Institute for College Access and Success and as one of the worst states for teachers in 2014 by Wallethub, South Carolina has a yearly average 4,000 teacher vacancies; most of which are due to state emigration or profession quitting. The large figure cannot be accounted for by the mild 2,000 college graduates taking up teaching annually.

Its low rank is mainly due to its poor starting salaries for teachers, change in salaries 10 years into the profession and low public school spending per student. The National Education Association stated the average starting salary for teachers was $32,389, below the national average of $36,141 in the year 2012-2013, and rising to an average salary of $48,375 (86 percent of the national average of $56,103), writes Nathaniel Cary of Greenville Online.

“An educator’s starting salary should be comparable to that of other college graduates who have similar education, training, and responsibilities,”

said Bernadette Hampton, president of the South Carolina Education Association.

“An estimated 62 percent of teachers work second jobs just to make ends meet. Providing competitive compensation is imperative if we are to restore the professional status of teachers.”

Jane Turner, director of South Carolina’s Center for Teacher Recruitment, Retention and Advancement (CERRA), recommended the state to invest in mentoring new teachers and state initiatives which persuade students with high accolades to take up teaching as a career. She also supported the move to offer mentorship stipends to highly effective teachers.

“The more we can recruit students to become teachers from a community, the more likely they are to go back to that community to teach,”

stated Turner. The study panel also reviewed teacher salary plans, aiming to raise salaries either in their first through 10 years on the job or during their final years teaching.

A proposal to declare a statewide property tax rate to pay for schools was also analyzed earlier this year to try to curb the lack of education funding.