Senators debate raising teacher salaries during budget discussions

The current budget would raise starting salaries for teachers up to $35,000 per year

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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WOLO) — As the pool of teachers across the state continues to get smaller, Senator Nikki Setzler (D-Lexington County) says it’s time for young educators to get a larger paycheck.

“We’ve got a tremendous teacher shortage in this state. We’ve got to up the salary for beginning teachers. We’ve got to show teachers they’re appreciated and keep them in the classroom, and we’ve got to get a new pipeline of teachers coming in,” Setzler said.

Senator Setzler says the current average starting teacher salary in South Carolina is $32,000. The current budget has that number going up to $35,000.

Sen. Greg Hembree (R-Horry County), the Head of the Senate Education Subcommittee, says experienced teachers deserve a little bit more than a four percent salary bump, calling for an amendment that would have veteran getting a five percent increase.

“That higher pay hopefully will keep some of our teachers in classrooms. I think it gets that salary scale up to something that will be at the Southeastern average,” said Hembree.

Some Senators say a five percent boost might not be doable with the current budget.

“The problem is the budget is balanced right now where you pull that additional money from. I think we’ll clearly get a four percent, I don’t know whether it will be a five percent or not, but a four percent will be a big first step to move us in the right direction,” said Setzler.

Some say regardless of the number, a pay raise for teachers is necessary for the future of education in the state.

“I feel confident that we will get a pay raise for teachers. It’s just a matter of how much and to whom,” Hembree said.

The governor’s budget says a five percent pay increase for teachers across the state would raise the average teacher salary up to $53,000 per year.

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