Teachers Leaving South Carolina Schools in Record Numbers

FORT MILL, SC -A new report shows teachers are leaving South Carolina public schools at a record rate. The shortage is teetering on crisis level and now the Governor and local elected leaders are working to address the issues.

“It’s a difficult job,” said Saani Perry, a Fort Mill teacher and board member of SC for ED, “every day I teach two science classes and two math classes.”

Perry says teaching is a labor of love.

“If you care about the job, it’s time-consuming, it’s stressful,” said Perry, “but the results are really what you’re going after.”

He says for years, the state hasn’t returned the affection.

“I don’t feel like the state truly cares about the route public education is going and they’re showing that through the funding of education,” said Perry.

He’s not the only one feeling forgotten. According to the report from Winthrop University on teacher supply and demand, more than 7300 teachers in South Carolina left their jobs after the last school year. A 10% increase from the year before.

“Pay is one part of the problem,” said Mandy Powers Norrell, a State Representative from Lancaster, “the overarching problem is respect.”

Norrell says teachers are being tasked with administrative work and required to pay for outside projects and supplies.

“We have an underlying culture of lack of respect for this profession,” said Norrell.

In December, legislators filed more than 100 bills to tackle the teacher troubles. On Wednesday night, Gov. Henry McMaster proposed a 5% pay increase for teachers in the state.

“This will increase average teacher salaries in South Carolina above the southeast average,” said McMaster to standing applause.

“5 % is not going to get us to where they should be, but it’s a whole lot more than what we’ve seen in the past,” said Norrell.

Norrell says other changes need to be made, including a psychologist in every school to work with disruptive students. She’d also like to see a reduction in the administrative burden placed on teachers.

Meanwhile, Perry says he fears if the state doesn’t step up, his peers may continue to leave.

“Legislators need to realize, the number of educators leaving this profession, that is your walk out and they need to do something about that,” said Perry.

North Carolina is also dealing with a teacher shortage. Charlotte Mecklenburg schools began the year short 200 teachers. Thousands of educators rallied in Raleigh last May. They demanded higher pay and an increase to per-pupil spending. Governor Cooper approved a 6.5% pay raise in the new state budget last spring.