Many teachers across South Carolina will be not be in their classrooms on May 1. Instead, they will be marching and protesting at the Statehouse in Columbia. Before reaching a conclusion about what you think about these actions, it is important to understand exactly what the teachers are protesting.

Fully funding education and teacher pay

Teachers do not make a competitive wage. Period. While it is true that teachers do not go into the profession expecting to make a bunch of money, teachers in South Carolina in particular are woefully underpaid when compared to the national or even regional average. Many teachers must work second and third jobs just to make ends meet. This lifestyle is unsustainable and leads to rapid teacher burnout and turnover. One main reason behind the stagnant pay is that the South Carolina legislature has been refusing to follow its own law governing school funding. The Education Finance Act of 1977, dictates the “base student cost” for providing students with a minimally adequate education. Unfortunately, the state legislature has not come close to following this law in years.

Discipline support

Coupled with low pay and a lack of resources, student discipline is one of the main reasons teachers leave the profession. Politicians and school districts have pushed schools to reduce suspensions and time out of the classroom for misbehaving students. In response, schools have watered down expectations for student behavior and handcuffed teachers and school leaders from effectively providing all students with a safe environment that is conducive to learning.

Until you have been a teacher, it’s hard to understand the impact that one student can have on the learning of all the other students in the class. Personally, I have been hit, kicked, bit, and spit on by students who receive minimal consequences. Teachers just do not have the resources or support to deal with these students. They are begging for these students to have access to things like mental health counseling and behavioral interventionists. Clear and consistent consequences are absolutely necessary for a conducive learning environment. We cannot continue to allow students to continually disrespect their teachers and disrupt the classroom.

Being treated as a professional

Leaving the education profession and entering the business world was an eye opening experience. It really showed me just how unprofessionally educators are treated. First and foremost, I was actually given the tools and supplies to do my job. Whenever I ran out of Post-It notes, copy paper, or any other basic supply, the company just bought more. I never even had to get out my personal credit card. Here is another perk, I could actually eat lunch in peace. I didn’t have to try and scarf down a sandwich while opening 23 yogurts, 14 juice boxes, and 12 Lunchables. On top of all of that, believe it or not, I wasn’t ridiculed every time I had to go to the bathroom. I didn’t have to bother any of my colleagues so they could “supervise” my office.

No other choice

Teachers have tried many other means, before organizing this event. They have been contacting legislators, speaking at meetings, and educating the public. But after promising big reforms, our state legislature once again failed to deliver. So, teachers are hopeful that #AllOutMay1 will be a catalyst for change. When we fail our teachers, we fail our kids.

Jake Rambo is a former teacher, assistant principal, and principal in the Charleston County School District.

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