Report shows SC has more teacher vacancies now than at start of this school year

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Published: Mar. 1, 2022 at 9:34 PM EST
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - Just since the start of the current school year, nearly a thousand educators across South Carolina have quit their jobs.

The data comes from the midyear update to the annual SC Educator Supply and Demand Report from CERRA, the Center for Educator Recruitment, Retention, & Advancement.

The report shows as of February, 977 educators — including teachers, school counselors, and librarians — had left their jobs since the school year began.

“Something is going on in our system to have that many people walk out midyear because that’s just unheard of. We don’t see these kind of numbers unless there’s a crisis, and we’ve got to figure out what’s going on,” Sherry East of the South Carolina Education Association said.

Those departures contributed to the 1,121 vacant teacher positions open across the state as of February, up from the 1,033 openings reported when the school year began. The most recent figure is more than double number of unfilled jobs reported at the same time one year earlier.

Of those vacancies, 178 were the result of newly created positions remaining unfilled, according to the report.

“In 1,121 classrooms today, nothing is being taught because of the teacher shortage because we can’t fill teaching vacancies. So while we talk about what is being taught, we need even greater urgency to address the places where nothing is being taught,” Patrick Kelly of the Palmetto State Teachers Association said.

One solution lawmakers have proposed is paying teachers more.

The South Carolina House of Representative’s proposed budget would raise the state’s minimum salary for teachers at every step on the salary schedule by $4,000.

Teacher advocacy groups said those raises would be helpful and appreciated but that low wages are far from the only reason more jobs are vacant.

“It’s the fact that you cannot get your planning done, your grading done, you’re calling the parents, unless you’re there after hours or before hours,” East said. “A lot of folks have decided it’s just too much.”

Another bill passed in the Senate and now sitting in the House would guarantee elementary and special education teachers have a break period every day.

With so many schools short-staffed, some teachers have said they are not able to take time to eat their lunch or even use the restrooms some days.

“It’s absolutely critical that the elements that the General Assembly has started on for teacher recruitment and retention do get signed into law,” Kelly said.

But Kelly says the fixes shouldn’t stop there, naming the enforcement of class size limits and a bill to give certain students majoring in education a bonus when they graduate from a South Carolina college, to attract more future teachers to the profession, as actions lawmakers could take this legislative session.

Senators will likely begin debate later this week on a bill that would allow non-certified teachers to teach if they meet certain academic and experience requirements — for example, allowing a chemist to teach a chemistry class if other teachers are not available.

Senator Greg Hembree, R – Horry and the chair of the Senate Education Committee, said this measure is an attempt to “plug the hole,” but that he does believe it would help those schools with vacancies.

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