South Carolina starting teacher pay 47th in nation

Teacher salaries in the Lowcountry.
Teacher salaries in the Lowcountry.

CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - From Phoenix to Charlotte and at our own state capital, teachers are wearing 'Red for Ed' and demanding higher teacher pay.

"Money isn't always everything, but it's just nice not to go paycheck to paycheck or have two jobs," said Dr. George Metz, the Dean of the School of Education at Charleston Southern University.

He is concerned about our state's ability to recruit and retain teachers in South Carolina, which he says could ultimately cost students a quality education.

"This is why South Carolina is experiencing a teacher shortage. It's a critical need for those that control the purse strings to understand…. teachers are the shapers of destiny!" Metz said.

According to the most recent data from our State Department of Education, not a single county in South Carolina pays that much to first-year teachers with a Bachelor's degree.

Aiken County is closest at $37,922.

"This salary ranges, with consideration for additional education and degrees, up to $51,583 for a first year teacher with a Doctoral degree," Merry Glenne Piccolino, ACPS Director of Communications, said in a statement to Live 5. "Our school board and administrators have taken deliberate steps to attract and retain the highest quality teaching professionals to our district."

The state average?

$33,057 for first-year teachers, which ranks us 47th in the nation for starting teacher pay.

"The reality is a $33,000 paycheck doesn't go a long way. When you break down the pay per hour? It's the best bargain in the USA," Dr. Metz said.

Jody Stallings, director of the Charleston Teacher Alliance, said pay is just one factor of placing qualified educators in every classroom.

"The salary situation has obviously never been very good, but now we're also running up against other situations that are really bad," Stallings said."The retirement situation in our state is horrible. We have some of the worst health insurance in the country."

Not to mention some school and classroom conditions, Stalling said, which will deter educators no matter what pay they are offered.

Locally, Charleston and Dorchester District 2 pay the highest for starting teachers, around $36,000.

They are followed by Berkeley ($35,901), DD4 ($35,311), Colleton ($32,543), Georgetown ($31,883) and Williamsburg ($30,715) counties.

Williamsburg County pays teachers with a Master's degree plus ten years of experience better than most other local counties, about $48,300.

The lowest local pay for a teacher with a Master's plus ten years of experience is in Colleton County ($45,218).

"While we believe that compensation to teachers is vitally important for recruitment, we place equal emphasis on retention with support structures, mentoring, and a culture that encourages the teacher a voice in decision-making through a Teacher Advisory Council and teacher-led curriculum planning teams," added Piccolino.

Charleston County Schools recently approved an across-the-board pay increase for teachers at all levels.

"That was definitely a good decision," Stallings aid. "The district can do some of that. The state has to do some of that, and some of that involves taxes. Unfortunately, it's not one board or group who can make a decision and things magically get better. It takes a lot of groups of people making the right decisions."

"These other states found the money, so let's be the voices without the disruption and let's pay teachers what they deserve," Metz said.

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