"Cal Poly classroom" by mellen_petrich is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

Members of the S.C. Senate Finance Committee announced their desire to devote nearly a third of additional revenue funded in the state House of Representatives budget to fund a $1,000 pay raise for every teacher in South Carolina.

The House used a conservative revenue estimate developed during some of the worst weeks of the pandemic, leading to an unexpected projection of nearly $200 million more in recurring revenue than what was thought to be available.

At the start of the 2020-21 school year, South Carolina had nearly 700 classroom vacancies, a 26% increase over last year, according to a press release from the Palmetto State Teachers Association (PSTA). And, the release goes on to say the challenges of teaching during the coronavirus pandemic drove many more out of the field.

“The importance of this proposed raise cannot be overstated,” the press release reads. “This loss of teaching talent is especially alarming given the increased need for students to have access to individualized instruction from highly qualified teachers after the instructional disruptions of the past year.”

The factors contributing to the state’s teacher shortage won’t be addressed by a single policy, the release said, but a pay increase is a step toward that goal.

“[The] PSTA supports the 2% pay increase requested by Superintendent Spearman as a first step toward raising our average teacher pay above the southeastern average.”

The $1,000 raise provides more than the baseline 2% raise for teachers making less than $50,000 per year, a significant portion of the state’s teachers largely made up of early career educators, the same group with higher rates of leaving the field, according to the PSTA.

The proposed raise, along with the rest of the budget, now goes to the full general assembly for approval.