Lawmakers to decide on possible retroactive raises for state teachers

VIDEO: Lawmakers to decide on possible retroactive raises for state teachers

SPARTANBURG, S.C. (WSPA/CBS News) - In 2020, educators in South Carolina did not get their planned yearly pay bump but there’s an effort to get them that money and unfreeze the step increase in 2021.

When House members return to the floor next week, they’ll have a new joint resolution before them that would retroactively give teachers their step increase.

South Carolina lawmakers did not pass a budget plan in 2020 because of uncertainties surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic. Instead, they opted to keep state government funded at the same levels as the previous fiscal year. That meant teacher step increases were frozen.

“We told teachers there were too many uncertainties in the economy to commit to unfreezing teacher step increases back in September,” House Ways and Means Chairman Rep. Murrell Smith said.

Education groups like SC For Ed had been asking lawmakers to unfreeze these pay bumps. They said one year of not getting this increases could have a long-term effect on educators.

“It means teachers in essence are losing a year of a salary increase that ultimately contributes to retirement and things like that,” SC For Ed Founder and teacher Lisa Ellis said.

South Carolina lawmakers said the revenue estimates show South Carolina’s economy has stabilized somewhat despite the pandemic. Because of that, the House Ways and Means Committee voted unanimously to pass a bill that would pay teachers for the step increase they missed.

According to the bill, lawmakers would use $50 million from the state’s reserve fund to pay for these pay bumps. “We told teachers, let us get through the Christmas season,” Smith said. “The Christmas season showed the economy was doing well and stable so we’d honor the commitment to unfreeze that.”

He said when they work on a budget for Fiscal Year 2021-2022 they will include the teacher step increases so teachers won’t miss out on a year of planned pay bumps.

If the bill passes the House, it would need approval from the Senate as well before heading to Gov. Henry McMaster’s desk for his signature.

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