Palmetto State Teachers Association urges lawmakers to address issue of educator shortage

COLUMBIA, SC (WOLO) — 2022 South Carolina Teacher of the year Amy Carter says more and more often, she sees education students she mentored leaving the teaching profession.

“Anything that we can do to make sure we keep the right people in classrooms is so very important,” Carter said.

“Because our state is in the middle of a record teacher shortage. That situation is having a direct negative consequence on students across our state,” said Patrick Kelly, high school teacher and Palmetto State Teachers Association (PSTA) director of government affairs. 

Kelly cited problems such as poor mental health among students, students learning below grade level, poor facilities and students without broadband internet access.

He also believes that the teacher minimum salary should be raised by at least $4,000.

“It’s not going to retain teachers. The teachers that want to leave the profession are going to leave anyway,” said Sen. Greg Hembree, a Republican from North Myrtle Beach. “It’s not going to lead to recruitment. There’s not some 16 year old sitting in a cafeteria that says ‘Hey I was going to be a computer engineer, but for 4,000 dollars, I’m in.’ It’s not going to work that way.”

However, Kelly disagrees and says more of the state’s budget needs to go towards compensating educators.

“One of our members shared that they lost an education major to Chick-Fil-A because they offered a better salary. We have got to compete,” Kelly said. “Moving the state minimum backwards from 40,000 to 38,000 isn’t going to get it done.”

“We hear a lot about the money but it’s more than money. It’s a lot about the working conditions and the environment there,” said Senate majority leader Shane Massey. “We’ve got to make sure we get a little more creative with those things.”

The Senate has passed one bill that the Palmetto State Teachers Association approves that makes teacher’s lives easier. 

“There’s a bill sitting in the house that would allow unencumbered planning time for 30 minutes a day for every elementary and special ed teacher in the state,” Kelly said. “The Senate has already passed it. The House needs to pass it.”

With all the excess paperwork, meetings and accommodations teachers are having to make, the association’s president says that giving teachers more freedom in the classroom would help them as well. She believes that not only falls on lawmakers, but also parents. 

“I want to be involved in my child’s education. I’m a teacher so I’m going to be involved but I do think there is a line that needs to stay,” said PSTA president Betsy Portune. “The public needs to remember that we need to trust teachers to do what is right. We know what to do, just give us the time to do it.”

Teachers at the statehouse Tuesday also spoke about how the education system needs to focus less on standardized testing prep and more on getting students caught up to grade level learning.

Categories: Local News, Richland