Budget would give raise to all S.C. teachers


COLUMBIA - Every teacher in South Carolina would get a raise bigger than nearly all of them have ever seen under the state's new budget being debated next week in the House.

But newer teachers would get a bigger pay bump than those who have been in the profession for a while.

The House budget sets aside $159 million to give all teachers a 4 percent pay raise. Budget writers said Thursday that is the biggest pay increase for teachers in South Carolina in 35 years and will boost the average salary of a teacher in the state above the Southeastern average of $52,830.

"Our main focus was to get more money for good teachers," said Rep. Bill Whitmire, a Republican from Walhalla who leads the subcommittee that looks at education spending.

The budget for the next fiscal year is even better for new teachers. Teachers with less than five years in the classroom would get at least a 6 percent raise, and many of them could end up with a 10 percent raise, under the proposal in the state's $9 billion spending plan.

The bigger raise for newer teachers is critical to keep them in the profession because South Carolina is losing teachers faster than the state can graduate new ones, Whitmire said.

Teacher groups have been thankful for the small raises but still want a 10 percent raise for all teachers.

Some individual teachers have suggested following the lead of educators in West Virginia, Kentucky and other states who have walked out to demand higher raises.

Teachers can't form unions in South Carolina, but loosely organized groups such as SC For Ed have sprung up in the past year and gathered thousands of teachers together on social media.

SC For Ed has told its members the current raise proposal is disappointing, especially for veteran teachers. But the group is emphasizing the budget still has to pass the House floor and go through the entire Senate process and is asking members to keep pushing their legislators to get the 10 percent.