Base pay for South Carolina public school teachers would increase by $2,500 under a proposed budget approved by the state House Ways and Means Committee, but it doesn’t mean all teachers would necessarily see a pay bump.
The $2,500 increase would bring the state’s starting salary from $40,000 to $42,500 for next school year. This aligns with Gov. Henry McMaster’s goal of bringing the starting teacher salary to $50,000 a year by 2026, the last year of his term.
In total, $593 million in new money would be spent on public education in the upcoming budget, which includes $261 million more in state aid that pays for teacher salaries.
Continuing to increase teacher pay is seen as a way to help address the ongoing teacher shortage in the state, which reached a record 1,400 vacant positions this school year.
Each cell on the minimum salary schedule, which bases teacher pay on years of experience and education level, also would increase by $2,500. A teacher who has 12 years of experience and has a master’s degree would earn at least $55,104.
However, the increased dollars for teacher salaries does not guarantee every teacher will receive a $2,500 raise. Only 46 out of 78 school districts currently pay less than the proposed higher salary schedule, as other school districts use local dollars to pay teachers more.
Even though every public school teacher in the state wouldn’t see a pay bump under the House budget proposal, the Palmetto State Teachers Association noted every district would receive more money and has the ability to increase teacher pay.
“It is essential to note that every district will receive increased state funds and, due to the flexibility of funds in state aid to classrooms, that increase can and should be used to raise teacher salaries,” the association said in a statement.
Lawmakers have about $3.5 billion in new annual and one-time revenue to allocate in this spring’s budget discussions. In total, the House budget-writing committee proposed a $13.8 billion spending plan. The full House is scheduled to debate the budget the week of March 13.
House budget writers did not go along with McMaster’s proposal to provide teachers with a $2,500 retention bonus next year to keep teachers in the profession. The proposal would have cost about $132 million.
“We didn’t have the money, really simple,” said state Rep. Bill Whitmire, R-Oconee, who oversees the subcommittee on public education.
But the Ways and Means Committee proposed spending $120 million on capital projects for school districts around the state.
“I thought that would go to better use since the teachers are already getting a large increase,” Whitmire said.
Budget writers included $17.3 million to increase base pay for school bus drivers from $9.12 an hour to $11 an hour. It represents a 20% increase in state pay for bus drivers.
Increasing pay for drivers would help retain drivers who can go to the private sector where they can be paid more money. As districts struggle to find drivers, those on staff have to drive multiple routes.
Whitmire said some children are picked up at 6 a.m. for school but may not get home until 5:30 p.m. every day.
“This leaves less time at school and home for our children,” Whitmire said. O
THER SPENDING PRIORITIES FOR EDUCATION:
▪ $20 million of the capital needs money at schools would be used for school safety upgrades
▪ $15 million for high-intensity tutoring programs