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.