Lowcountry Headlines

Lowcountry Headlines


SC teacher shortage reaches unprecedented high for another year

COLUMBIA, S.C. (WCSC) - South Carolina now has more open teaching jobs than ever before, according to a new report that found the state’s educator shortage continues to worsen.

The Center for Educator Recruitment, Retention, & Advancement (CERRA) released its 2023 South Carolina Educator Supply and Demand Report on Monday, which accumulates data from 73 traditional public school districts and three public charter districts.

According to the report, there were 1,613 unfilled K-12 educator jobs at the start of the 2023-2024 school year. While that mainly accounts for certified teachers, it also includes school-based service positions, like counselors and librarians.

That number of vacancies is nearly a 10% increase from the year before when 1,474 openings were reported, and it is more than double the figure from three years ago, 699.

This year also marks the fifth straight year educator vacancies have hit a record high.

“If you’re assuming 20-25 students per classroom, that means tens of thousands of students are not receiving daily access to a highly qualified teacher,” Patrick Kelly of the Palmetto State Teachers Association said.

The report also found more than 7,300 educators left jobs in their school district at the end of last school year, down from 8,300 the year before.

Vacancies in high-need areas have ballooned from just last year, with openings for science teachers up 14%, special education teachers up 38%, speech pathologists up 31%, and school librarians up 77%.

We know the answer teacher!

Photo: skynesher / E+ / Getty Images

Meanwhile, the number of international teachers with work visas in South Carolina classrooms has risen 33% since last year.

“This is really more of a Band-Aid approach, because the simple fact of the matter is the laws and requirements on work visas means that these individuals cannot be a long-term solution to an educator shortage,” Kelly said.

The South Carolina Education Association called the shortage a “five-alarm fire” that lawmakers need to prioritize in their next legislative session, beginning in January.

“Our elected officials need to listen to educators, improve our working conditions, and take meaningful, substantive action to recruit and retain quality educators. Our working conditions are our students’ learning conditions, and South Carolina children deserve the best conditions we can provide,” South Carolina Education Association President Sherry East said in a statement.

Earlier this year, state lawmakers raised South Carolina’s starting teacher salary by $2,500, up to $42,500.

State Superintendent of Education Ellen Weaver is asking lawmakers in her budget request to raise teachers’ minimum pay again next year by $1,500.

But that $1,500 increase could turn into a $3,000 bump. Weaver also requested another $1,500 increase to the teacher salary schedule as a “stipend” if the legislature expands the number of days teachers are contractually required to work by five days, all to be used as professional learning days.

“We have seen tremendous progress in getting South Carolina to the southeastern average over the last few years. We’re going to continue to push that forward,” Weaver told reporters last month.

Weaver said the state should consider additional strategies to get and keep more teachers in the classroom, including extra pay for teachers who mentor younger colleagues, incentives for teaching in high-need areas, and part-time return options for educators who have left the profession.

“There’s a lot of things that we need to be looking at. But it’s going to require an all-of-the-above strategy for sure because we’re in desperate need of teachers,” she said.

Earlier this year, a committee focused on the state’s teacher shortage released nearly two dozen recommendations for turning it around.

Some ideas would require lawmakers’ approval to implement, and the legislature will be able to take them under consideration for the first time when it returns to the State House in January.

Copyright 2023 WCSC. All rights reserved.

Sponsored Content

Sponsored Content