Charleston Co. schools hope teacher raises will help recruitment, retention
CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - Teachers in Charleston County are a vote away from earning $10,000 more next school year and the pay bump is even larger for veteran teachers. The increase promises to reduce the number of teachers leaving the field and aid in the recruitment of new teachers.
The school board has tentatively approved a $5,000 salary increase for all teachers and a one-time $5,000 bonus. They’ve also increased the number of years a veteran teacher can receive annual raises from 30 to 40 years of teaching. Those annual raises are called step increases.
The board still must approve the finalized budget, including the new compensation package, but the raises have already received numerous votes of approval.
The boost in pay is the product of teachers and administrators working together to analyze how much money a teacher needs to make ends meet in Charleston County.
Jody Stallings is a teacher and director of the Charleston Teacher Alliance, he’s also a member of the CCSD Teacher Compensation Task Force.
He says they made significant gains this year.
“We are thrilled that the board is looking at this. The top two issues are salary and discipline,” Stallings said. “We’re looking at salary. Next up is discipline. If we get those two issues cleared up, we might be looking at a pretty attractive profession here in the next few years.”
The new starting salary for a teacher straight out of college is $48,146 without the $5,000 bonus. At the top end, a teacher with a master’s degree at the maximum step (40) would make $105,593. That same veteran teacher is making nearly $18,500 less this year.
CCSD Chief Human Resources Officer Bill Briggman, a key member of the task force, says he believes the increases are already helping an aggressive recruitment effort to fill between 500 and 600 positions.
“Our number of current openings is lower than it has historically been this time of year,” Briggman said. “What I seem to be seeing is a lot of teachers are staying. We generally lose about 15% or so of our teachers each year on average and I am expecting that the number to [decrease].”
Briggman says the cost of housing was the key factor in determining how much they need to pay teachers. Getting salaries to $58,000 a year is the goal, which he thinks they’ll be able to achieve in the next few years. However, he says the research done by the task force suggests a stable income with Charleston’s housing prices is actually closer to $72,000 for a single person.
With starting salaries at $48,146, without the $5,000 bonus, CCSD teachers are among some of the highest paid in the state. It also makes CCSD competitive with districts across the country. According to the Nation Education Association, the average starting teacher pay is $42,844. However, the NEA’s latest data doesn’t reflect increases made for the upcoming year.
Still, it puts CCSD above state averages in neighboring states. NEA reports, neither Georgia nor North Carolina tops $40,000 for average starting teacher salaries. Florida’s average gets close with an average starting teacher salary of $45,171.
Stallings and Briggman hope to keep the task force alive and eventually become a permanent organization to continue to influence future teacher compensation.
The increase in teacher salaries comes at a cost to taxpayers. To pay for the raises, the board is considering an 8.3 millage increase.
Read more about the proposed budget here.
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