Task force tries to turn around South Carolina teacher shortage

A group made up of lawmakers, teachers, superintendents, and other education leaders has released its recommendations for turning around a teacher shortage.
Published: Jun. 7, 2023 at 6:47 PM EDT
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WRDW/WAGT) - South Carolina’s teacher shortage has only gotten worse in recent years.

Now a group made up of lawmakers, teachers, superintendents, and other education leaders has released its recommendations for turning that around.

For the past several months – the task force has been meeting, taking testimony from experts and the public, and studying South Carolina’s educator shortage.

In total – it’s making 23 recommendations to address teacher recruitment and retention.

“This was a significant investment of time, to make sure the recommendations in this report were begin responsive to the needs of educators, as identified by the experts themselves, the teachers of South Carolina,” said Patrick Kelly, a task force member from the Palmetto State Teachers Association,

Sherry East of the South Carolina Education Association said: “I think what’s really driving this train right now is the teacher shortage is showing up every August.”

The 23 recommendations are divided among four main categories.

Under compensation – they include raising the statewide starting salary and revamping the salary structure.

“It’s not just the same call for more funding. It’s more funding in order to achieve innovative ideas,” Kelly said.

Recommendations to boost recruitment involve a public relations campaign to enhance public respect for the profession … and bringing more retired teachers back to the classroom.

Task force members also want to better prepare educators through steps like improving mentor programs and eliminating the current requirement for would-be teachers to pass a basic skills assessment to enter a preparation program.

Finally, they’re looking to improve working conditions – with recommendations like expanding unencumbered time policies … ensuring accountability for student behavior.

“Especially post-pandemic, we’ve really heard a lot that there’s a lot of violence going on, a lot of disruptive behavior that keep you from teaching and a lack of support from administrators,” East said.

Some of the recommendations would require legislative action – meaning they wouldn’t be able to be taken up before next year.

Others would only need action from the state Department of Education or individual districts to implement.

“Every vacant teaching position in South Carolina impact a child who’s going through a K-12 education progression that they don’t get to do over, so the urgency has to be great,” Kelly said.