Charleston County teachers’ task force asks for raise in salaries

Charleston County School District teachers are asking for an almost $8,000 raise to help with living expenses and other financial burdens.
Published: Mar. 9, 2023 at 4:00 PM EST|Updated: Mar. 9, 2023 at 9:33 PM EST
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CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - Charleston County School District teachers are asking for an almost $8,000 raise to help with living expenses and other financial burdens that they say are unable to pay with the current salary.

The district’s teacher compensation task force includes over 30 teachers and principals together to discuss some of the common problems they face when it comes to pay with many in the district having to work two jobs to make ends meet.

During the 2022-2023 school year, a first-year teacher is being paid $43,146. The proposed pay by the task force would be $51,074 or up to $58,000 depending on what the teacher was making originally in 2023- 2024. The increase would not only affect first-year hires but all teachers throughout the district.

Carolina Park Elementary second grade teacher David Bonezzi has worked in the district for ten years and works two jobs outside of teaching to pay bills.

“Each year the rent goes up, it surpasses what my pay increase is. My wife and I have not been able to save enough money to buy a house,” Bonezzi says. “Next year my son is going to graduate high school and I have to try and figure out how to support him in the next phase of his life.”

A majority of teachers in the district told the task force they give around 50 percent of their salary to rent with the average cost of renting or purchasing a home in Charleston County significantly higher than its surrounding areas.

Teaching her first year in the district at Ladson Elementary School, Terryn Whaley lives at home with her family to save as much as she can.

“No one should have to work to live; we should work to enjoy life to have fun, to take care of our households and families,” Whaley says.

A roundtable interview with the task force on Thursday afternoon addressed the main concerns from teachers in the district and what they will be addressing on Monday when the task force introduces their recommendations to the school board.

During the meeting, it was shown that teacher departures have increased 20 percent since 2020 in the district, losing many longtime teachers.

“Teaching is incredibly complex, and without older teachers to share that corporate knowledge and feed back into the younger generations that it’s coming in, it’s going to be lost and I don’t know how you get that back,” Bonezzi says. “I’m fortunate that I was around a lot of those teachers in my career and I’m afraid of what’s going to happen and who’s going to be in front of left in front of our kids if this doesn’t move in the right direction.”

Helping organize the task force, district Chief Human Resource Officer Bill Briggman says they want to focus on what’s best for the kids in ensuring happy and healthy teachers.

“Back when I was a high school student, I knew that teacher’s pay was always considered low. When you look at classrooms, it’s time for change and the task force was really put together to be a voice to address it,” Briggman says. “Many of us already knew the issue. The issue is really making sure folks know they can be compensated at a livable wage.”

At the board meeting on March 13, the task force will highlight the impact of salary and compensation on teacher retention.

“I’m just happy to be here and to just be standing up and speaking for those teachers because this has been an ongoing problem forever, and it needs to find a solution quickly,” Whaley says.