End of state program could cause Horry County Schools to lose 150 employees in 2018

HORRY COUNTY, SC (WBTW) – Horry County Schools could lose almost a hundred teachers, and even more school staff, after this coming school year. The state is ending an incentive program that allowed school employees to keep working after they enter retirement.

The Horry County School system has been able to keep almost 250 employees who have retired through the Teacher Employee Retention Incentive. Statewide, 7,500 teachers are participating in the TERI program.

“It’s the value of having veteran employees who have lots of experience in their content area. They’ve had lots of experience working with young people,” said Horry County Schools spokesperson Teal Britton.

However, state lawmakers have decided to end the program after the coming school year. Horry County Schools could lose an estimated 150 employees, including more than 80 teachers. Britton says this is an even bigger problem because of the teacher shortage the district is already facing.

“There is a crisis level of few students who are choosing to become teachers. We are very concerned about how we are going to replenish our workforce,” Britton reveals.

Dr. Shirley Butler, Vice President of Academic Affairs at Horry Georgetown Technical College, retired five years ago. She continued working at the school thanks to the TERI program. Dr. Butler says the program is not only beneficial to retirees, but also to the schools and students who gain value from having the seasoned educators remain on staff.

“I think you’re going to lose a lot of people with a lot of valuable experience that would have stayed on a little longer,” predicts Dr. Butler.

Britton says school officials are already talking about ways to step up teacher recruitment efforts.

“What are other districts and other states doing to get folks to commit? There are places that offer significant signing bonuses, places that have a more aggressive effort to pay back student loans,” considers Britton. She says the school system is even discussing offering teachers more competitive salaries.

“We are currently in the process of doing a salary study. Sometimes when you’re talking about who’s first place and who’s third place, it may be less than a thousand dollars difference,” explains the district PIO.

The TERI program officially ends in June 2018. Those retiring then can come back to work for the school district but are limited to a $10,000 salary.