Tackling South Carolina’s teacher retention problem

Published: Jan. 3, 2023 at 6:13 PM EST
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COLUMBIA, S.C.. (WRDW/WAGT) - Big, bold ideas.

Incoming State Superintendent of Education Ellen Weaver told a state task force that’s what’s going to bring in more teachers.

The teacher shortage in South Carolina is at an all-time high – more than 1,400 unfilled jobs statewide at the beginning of the school year.

Post-pandemic, Weaver says the teacher shortage is more pressing than ever.

“The only way we are going to ameliorate that for our students is if we figure out how to support a high-quality teacher, well-paid teacher in every classroom in this state,” Weaver said.

As this task force studies South Carolina’s teacher shortage – holding its second meeting Tuesday in Columbia – Weaver encouraged them to focus on two areas.

The first is the power of mentorships and apprenticeships in teacher recruitment and retention – and the second is the role of school leaders, like principals, in this work.

“Please as you do your work, think big. Think bold. The way that we have been preparing teachers, the way that we have structured our system may have worked 100 years ago, but it’s not sufficient for the realities of today,” Weaver said.

The task force will make its formal recommendations to lawmakers and the governor by May.

The chair of the state Senate Education Committee says they’ll be closely watching those recommendations to shape potential legislation.

“If we just keep doing what we’re doing and hopefully it gets better or just throw a little more money at it, it’s not going to work. It hasn’t worked,” Sen Greg Hembree said. “We’ve increased the salary by 33% in five years, and we’ve had more teachers leave.”

Task force members include current teachers, school administrators and lawmakers.

Its chair – former state Superintendent Barbara Nielsen – says she’s confident Weaver will work *with them to tackle this issue.

“We have everybody in the same room, talking with each other,” Nielsen.

Weaver will be sworn in as state superintendent a week from Wednesday.

She told the task force she’ll be in “listen and learn mode” for the start of her tenure – especially as she awaits their recommendations to address the shortage.