Teacher advocates: Governor’s funding plan is important step forward but ‘falls short’

VIDEO: Teacher advocates: Governor’s funding plan is important step forward but ‘falls short’

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster’s $10 billion Executive Budget includes a number of provisions focused on improving the state’s education system, including $100 million to update educational materials in public schools.

Officials with the Palmetto State Teachers Association said the budget is far from perfect, but they believe it takes important steps toward providing our students with the educational opportunities they need and deserve.

“Most significantly, PSTA applauds the Governor’s proposed expansion of 4K early childhood education. In what promises to be a tight budget year, the Governor’s proposal to invest $48 million in 4K education represents a substantial investment in the academic potential of students across the state. Our association’s legislative agenda has called on expansion of 4K access for several years due to a body of research showing that access to quality early childhood education leads to growth in student achievement throughout their K-12 educational journey,” said a statement from the PSTA. “Similarly, the Governor’s proposal to invest $100 million in non-recurring funds in instructional materials will pay dividends well into the future. Currently, too many classrooms across our state are reliant on materials that are woefully out-of-date, and enactment of the Governor’s proposal would provide our teachers with appropriate and higher quality instructional resources.”

However, the PSTA believes the budget falls short in addressing the state’s teaching shortage crisis.

According to the Center for Educator Recruitment, Retention, and Advancement (CERRA,) South Carolina’s schools started this school year with nearly 700 vacant teaching positions, representing a 26% increase over last year.

“Research consistently shows access to a quality teacher to be the single most important in-school influence on student achievement. As a result, investments in areas like instructional materials and early childhood access will never achieve their full potential until our state takes the necessary steps to enhance teacher recruitment and retention,” PSTA’s statement said.

The Governor’s budget does propose increased funding for Teaching Fellows, Teacher Cadets, and ProTeam programs. These have a proven track record of attracting South Carolina’s best and brightest students to the teaching profession, according to the PSTA.

The Governor has also proposed that lawmakers should unfreeze salary steps, but PSTA officials said this action isn’t enough “to reverse growing teacher turnover rates.”

The PSTA continues to call for state lawmakers to raise teacher salaries to become more competitive with those in other states.

“We hope the General Assembly will follow Superintendent Spearman’s request for a pay raise for teachers as a step toward achieving the improved teacher compensation structure our state needs to remain competitive with neighboring states,” PSTA’s press release stated.

The teacher advocacy group is also critical of the Governor’s proposal to direct almost $14 million in surplus lotter funds toward the creation of Education Savings Account programs that would cover tuition to private schools.

“Whether the funding is provided directly or indirectly, state revenues should not flow to schools that are not subject to the same accountability requirements as all other public schools. Instead of funding private schools, any excess lottery funds would be better spent on the recommendation in our legislative agenda to provide education majors with the same lottery scholarship enhancement currently available to students majoring in science and math,” PSTA officials stated in a press release.

Copyright 2021 WCSC. All rights reserved.