CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) — Since the start of the current school year, nearly a thousand South Carolina educators have left their jobs.
The data comes from the Mid-Year Update to the annual SC Educator Supply and Demand Report from CERRA, the Center for Educator Recruitment, Retention and Advancement.
The report shows that as of February, 977 educators – including teachers, school counselors and librarians – had left their jobs since the start of the school year.
“Something is going on in our system that so many people come out mid-year because it’s just unheard of. We don’t see those kinds of numbers unless there’s a crisis, and we have to figure out what’s going on,” said Sherry East of the South Carolina Education Association.
Those departures contributed to the 1,121 open teaching vacancies statewide in February, up from 1,033 positions reported at the start of the school year. The most recent figure is more than double the number of job vacancies reported in the same period a year earlier.
Of those vacancies, 178 resulted from newly created positions not filled, according to the report.
“In 1,121 classrooms today, nothing is being taught due to the shortage of teachers because we cannot fill vacancies. So while we’re talking about what’s being taught, we need even greater urgency to tackle the places where nothing is being taught,” said Patrick Kelly of the Palmetto State Teachers Association.
One solution proposed by lawmakers is to pay teachers more.
The budget proposed by the South Carolina House of Representatives would raise the state minimum wage for teachers by $4,000 at each step of the salary grid.
Teacher advocacy groups said the increases would be helpful and appreciated, but low pay is far from the only reason more jobs are unfilled.
“It’s the fact that you can’t do your planning, your filing, you call the parents, unless you’re there after hours or before hours,” East said. “A lot of people decided that was too much.”
Another bill passed in the Senate and now sitting in the House would guarantee elementary and special education teachers a break every day.
With so many schools short-staffed, some teachers said they couldn’t make time to eat their lunch or even use the toilet on some days.
“It’s absolutely critical that the things that General Assembly started on for teacher recruitment and retention be signed into law,” Kelly said.
But Kelly says the fixes shouldn’t stop there, naming enforcement of class size limits and a bill to give some students majoring in education a bonus when they graduate from college. of South Carolina, to attract more future teachers to the profession, as actions lawmakers might take this legislative session.
Senators will likely begin debate later this week on a bill that would allow uncertified teachers to teach if they meet certain academic and experience requirements — for example, allowing a chemist to teach a course in chemistry if other teachers are not available.
Senator Greg Hembree, R-Horry and chairman of the Senate Education Committee, said the move was an attempt to “plug the hole” but he believed it would help schools with vacancies.
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