December 23, 2014

Study panel warns better pay and benefits needed to avoid teacher shortage

Sen. Wes Hayes, R-York, led the study committee (File/SCETV)

Sen. Wes Hayes, R-York, led the study committee (File/SCETV)

A state Senate panel is warning that South Carolina will need to do a lot more to recruit and keep teachers over the next decade — especially in rural areas.

The Select Committee on Public School Teachers reached consensus on several recommendations earlier this week. Those recommendations are not binding, but will be sent to the Senate Finance Committee. It would be up to the full General Assembly and Governor Nikki Haley to include the proposals in the state budget or new legislation.

The recommendations include expanding a college loan forgiveness program and boosting salaries. Sen. Wes Hayes, R-York, said trends seem to indicate that teachers are more likely to stay in the field once they reach five years of experience. But many leave within two or three years. He said it appears pay may be the most important factor in their decision.

“Salary is, of course, a big part particularly for new teachers and young teachers,” he told South Carolina Radio Network. “They often come out of college with heavy debt. The pay makes a huge difference to them.”

According to the Center for Educator Recruitment, Retention, and Advancement (CERRA), about 2,000 students graduate from South Carolina colleges with education majors each year. But the group says that is not nearly enough to meet the usual 4,000 openings in South Carolina’s school districts. The group said the difference is made up through out-of-state teachers, who are much less likely to remain in South Carolina for the long term.

Hayes warns the problem is only going to get worse, especially in rural areas. “With the Baby Boomers aging out, we’re going to face a teacher shortage all over the state soon. And an administrator shortage. A principal shortage.”

The study panel is also asking officials to examine teacher mentoring programs and other initiatives that would work to keep homegrown teachers in rural or poor districts. Hayes noted that wealthier, suburban school districts and private schools are often able to entice teachers with  larger paychecks financed through higher property tax revenue than rural districts can collect.

“If you can get teachers that come from these hard-to-serve areas and have family in those areas, the likelihood that they’ll go back and live there permanently is much better than just trying to attract a teacher with no roots in those areas at all,” he said.

The panel did not estimate  the cost for its general recommendations.


Former Haley chief of staff to lead powerful business group

Ted Pitts during his time as Gov. Nikki Haley's chief of staff (Image: SCETV)

Ted Pitts during his time as Gov. Nikki Haley’s chief of staff (Image: SCETV)

Gov. Nikki Haley’s former chief of staff has been named the next president and CEO of the South Carolina Chamber of Commerce.

Ted Pitts gave up his job in the Governor’s Office soon after Haley was reelected last month. At the time, the chamber said it was hiring Pitts as executive vice president. On Thursday, the chamber reported Pitts would replace current President and CEO Otis Rawl.

The SC Chamber says it represents more than 18,000 businesses by promoting industry and trade concerns in state, local, and federal government.

Pitts had worked with Haley’s administration during her entire first term in office. He served first as a legislative liaison before being promoted to chief of staff last year. Prior to that, the Presbyterian College alum served with Haley as a fellow Lexington County legislator in the South Carolina House. He is also a major in the South Carolina Army National Guard.

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Governor Haley wants ethics reform from South Carolina lawmakers

Governor Nikki Haley Wednesday making her case for ethics reform.  South Carolina Radio Network photo.

Governor Nikki Haley Wednesday making her case for ethics reform.
South Carolina Radio Network photo.

With just weeks before the new state legislative session gets underway, Governor Nikki Haley is making it clear that she wants at least one thing from lawmakers this time around: ethics reform.

On Wednesday the governor made her case by running down a list of elected officials in South Carolina who had violated the law in some way during her first term.

“In my administration time we have watched a Lt. Governor (Ken Ard) get indicted. We’ve watched a Speaker (Bobby Harrell) get indicted. We’ve watched a senator (Robert Ford) get indicted. And I have removed eight sheriffs. I think now is the time for ethics reform.” Haley told reporters Wednesday afternoon in the lobby of the Statehouse. “I think it’s time to say enough is enough.”

Haley said it is also about giving the taxpayers what they expect from a law-abiding state government. “This is just about a clean government. This is about a transparent government. This is about an ethical government and this is about giving the taxpayers what they deserve.” Said Haley.

The governor’s call for ethics reform came on the same day as former Lexington County Sheriff James Metts’ proposed plea agreement was rejected by a federal judge. Metts is one of those sheriffs the governor mentioned she had to remove during her first term.

A federal grand jury indicted Metts in June on multiple counts of accepting cash bribes to let illegal Mexican aliens out of his jail and let them avoid deportation.

Metts will now go to trial in January.

As for what she’s looking for in ethics reform legislation, Haley said she want’s two things especially: full income disclosure from legislators and independent investigations of legislators that are handled outside of the House Ethics Committee and the Senate Ethics Committee.

Educators unhappy with state’s replacement for Common Core standards

Members of the Education Oversight Committee listen to concerns about the new standards on Monday (Courtesy: SCETV)

Members of the Education Oversight Committee listen to concerns about the new standards on Monday (Courtesy: SCETV)

South Carolina officials are not happy with new education standards which will take effect next year, saying the short window the state Education Department had to draft the benchmarks made them worse than the Common Core version they are supposed to replace.

State lawmakers this spring ordered the Department of Education to review the Common Core math standards and English and language arts standards by January 1. The law signed by Gov. Nikki Haley also requires the state Board of Education, Education Oversight Committee (EOC), and state legislature to adopt new standards by the 2015-2016 school year next August. The move came after conservative groups pushed to replace Common Core, which took full effect in the current 2014-2015 year.

But during an EOC briefing on Monday, some of the very people reviewing the new standards insisted the tight timeframe was only making things worse.

“Time was of the element,” said Debbie Barron, a Greenville County specialist who helped review the new English benchmarks. “That perhaps led us to an inferior set of standards.”

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Haley picks Clemson youth outreach leader as new DSS director

Alford comes to DSS from Clemson's youth outreach program

Alford comes to DSS from Clemson’s youth outreach program

Gov. Nikki Haley has picked the next director of South Carolina’s embattled Department of Social Services — even as lawmakers debate whether to break up the child services agency.

During an introductory press briefing Monday, Haley revealed her choice of Susan Alford to lead the agency tasked with child services and public family benefits. Alford replaces previous director Lillian Koller, who stepped down in June after criticism over how the agency handled abuse and neglect investigations that ended with several children dying.

Alford has led the Girls Center, part of the Youth Learning Institute outreach program at Clemson University, since 2007. The center’s website states that it helps “children, youth, families, and individuals of all ages to improve their health and wellbeing (sic) through research and education.” Prior to that she was an executive at South Carolina’s teen detention agency Department of Juvenile Justice during Gov. Mark Sanford’s administration.

Alford said she could think of no mission more important than at DSS. “We have to work with all of DSS’s stakeholders and that includes everybody,” she told reporters during Monday’s press conference. “From the state to the county, county leaders, the legislature, law enforcement, the judiciary, child advocates everywhere, nonprofits, we all have to be part of the solution.”

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