CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - Two days before a scheduled rally at the South Carolina statehouse in which thousands of teachers are expected to descend on Columbia, state superintendent of education Molly Spearman says she won’t support it.
Instead, she says she will serve as a substitute in an absent teacher’s classroom.
“I became a teacher because I love and believe in education and the needs of my students always came first,” Spearman said. “As State Superintendent, my first responsibility and top priority is to the nearly 800,000 students of our state. That is why on May 1, I will not be joining those teachers who decide to walk out on their classrooms. Instead, I will be walking into the classroom of an absent teacher to serve as a substitute. I am not doing this to help facilitate the walkout, but rather to do all I can to ensure as many students as possible receive the instruction they deserve.”
Several school districts around the state including Dorchester District 2 have announced they will close Wednesday because of the rally.
“All can agree that areas of South Carolina’s education system are in need of improvement," Spearman continued. "This year, I have worked with the legislature to raise teacher salaries, provide additional mental health and safety resources for all students, and reduce excessive testing that takes valuable time away from teaching. Progress continues to be made but much more needs to be done. I support teachers using their voice to advocate for needed change and share in their commitment to ensuring reforms become reality. However, I cannot support teachers walking out on their obligations to South Carolina students, families, and the thousands of hardworking bus drivers, cafeteria workers, counselors, aides, and custodial staff whose livelihoods depend on our schools being operational. I pledge to continue fighting to improve the opportunities and resources for all South Carolina students and teachers.”
SC for Ed is organizing the All Out On May 1 rally, saying lawmakers have not done enough this year to help teachers after promising education reform.
"We want our state to understand that educators are tired of being ignored in our mission to improve the future for our children," a statement dated Sunday and posted to the group's Facebook page states.
The group says the state legislature ignored a 10 percent pay raise request agreed upon by three major teacher representative entities and discarded it in favor of a lesser raise that "does not meet the minimal goal of increasing the average teacher salary in South Carolina to the Southeast average."
They also are upset the General Assembly has not passed proposals to reduce class sizes, guarantee teachers at least a short break without students and add social workers and counselors.
“For over a decade educators in this state have been continuously pushed aside and neglected as we give our best to the students we love so dearly including: the clothes off our backs, the money in our wallets, the love in our hearts, and the tears in our eyes,” the statement reads. “We all know that we cannot sufficiently educate our students without the resources our schools so desperately need, thus the legislature needs to appropriately fund education and pass effective educational policy.”
A similar rally is planned for North Carolina on May 1, where a number of the state’s larger school districts have canceled classes.