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S.C. teachers ‘step out’ during statewide protest over budget

Updated: Sep. 23, 2020 at 6:19 PM EDT
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CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - Many South Carolina teachers took a personal day Wednesday to take part in a virtual protest over the state’s budget.

The group SC for Ed organized the “Stand Up and Step Out” protest more than a year after they rallied with 10,000 people at the State House for education reform.

The group’s leaders kicked off the day with a Facebook Live event at 9 a.m. asking the hundreds watching "to use your voice to advocate for yourself and your profession by reminding the S.C. House that they need to do their job and pass the budget sent to them last week by the Senate.”

The budget, which the Senate did approve on Sept. 16, includes the annual pay increase for teachers, also known as step increases. However, its passage came during the last week of a two-week special session, meaning the bill will not be considered by the House until its members return in January.

In the meantime, teachers like Leanna Rossi-Potter are taking this day to call their representatives pushing for them to return and vote on the budget. Rossi-Potter teaches at Wando High School and serves as the Charleston County Education Association president.

“I want our lawmakers to put education first," she said. “Minimally adequate is not enough, and it’s time for our lawmakers to realize that and make sure every child in our state is getting a quality education, and therefore it’s being funded.”

Charleston County School District had 61 teachers request a personal day on Wednesday. It’s not clear, however, how many of those requested time off specifically to take part in the protest. Spokesperson Andy Pruitt said that number is not unusual.

The Berkeley County School District had 12 teachers take the day off while five teachers put in for a personal day in Dorchester County District Two. Dorchester County District Four has not yet responded.

Charleston County Teacher Mev McIntosh, who is out on maternity leave, still took part in the protest.

“We’re hearing a lot from community members and from critics that teachers need to ‘Go back to the classroom and do their jobs.’ Well, what we’re asking today is that lawmakers do their job," McIntosh said. “Why is it that after months we still have no budget passed in this state? If teachers behaved the way lawmakers are right now, teachers would be failing.”

The virtual protest wrapped up at 3 p.m. after a series of half-hour “phoneathons” broken up by region.

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