Report: SC seventh-worst state for teachers

COLUMBIA, SC (WBTW) – A new report says South Carolina is the 7th-worst state in the nation as an environment for teachers, based on things like salary and teacher-student ratio. The personal finance website WalletHub did the study of all 50 states and the District of Columbia.

The study looked at average starting salaries for teachers, median salaries, school systems’ rankings, teachers’ income growth potential, spending per student, and student-teacher ratios, among other things.

Here’s what the report found:
Being a Teacher in South Carolina (1=Best; 25=Avg.)
• 31st – Average Starting Salary for Teachers
• 29th – Median Annual Salary for Teachers
• 45th – WalletHub “School Systems” Ranking
• 24th – Teachers’ Income Growth Potential
• 19th – Projected Number of Teachers per Student by Year 2022
• 32nd – Unemployment Rate
• 41st – 10-Year Change in Teacher Salaries
• 32nd – Pupil-to-Teacher Ratio
• 32nd – Public School Spending per Student

Alyssa Gamble of Columbia loves the school where her daughter goes to kindergarten, but worries about what the WalletHub report says about the rest of the state. “Knowing that we tend to rank lower in education levels when you compare us nationwide, certainly the fact that teachers aren’t paid as well in our state, that definitely worries me when it comes to recruiting good teachers for the future of education in South Carolina,” she says.

Kathy Maness, executive director of the Palmetto State Teachers Association, says she doesn’t believe the ranking, but says teachers’ salaries are relatively low in South Carolina. One reason is that, during the recession, the state gave school districts permission not to give teachers their annual salary increases that are based on experience. They did it as a way to avoid layoffs. “So we’re hoping that when things are getting better, and they are, that the districts will be able to catch up with that,” she says.

She says lawmakers and the state superintendent Molly Spearman are also working on plans to raise teachers’ salaries at both ends of their careers. “Teachers in South Carolina cannot retire until 28 years, but on our state salary schedule, it stops at 22 years. So if your teacher next door is teaching 28 and I’m teaching 22, we’re making the exact same thing on our state salary schedule. That is a huge concern,” Maness says.

She says the state Supreme Court’s ruling in the “Abbeville” case, that the state is not providing an adequate education in some of the poor, rural districts, will require lawmakers to make changes that should improve schools statewide. The court recently gave lawmakers a deadline of February 1, 2016 to come up with a plan to address the problems the lawsuit highlighted.

While South Carolina ranks 45th overall, North Carolina ranks 50th. Georgia is 37th. West Virginia is lowest and Massachusetts is number 1.

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