Editorial: Increased teacher pay a smart idea for state

  • Posted: Thursday, January 9, 2014 12:01 a.m.

Teacher salaries in South Carolina need a boost, but it must be done in a fiscally responsible way. The average South Carolina teacher was paid $48,375 at the end of the 2013 school, nearly $7,000 less than the national average.

A bill proposed by likely Democratic candidate for governor Vincent Sheheen will raise the salaries of public school teachers to thankfully match that level.

Paying teachers on an appropriate level, of course, doesn’t guarantee improvement in the classroom.

However, having adequate pay that at least mirrors the national average should help attract teachers that may otherwise leave or not even enter the profession or go to another state that pays better.

State law requires the minimum salary paid to South Carolina teachers to match the Southeastern average, but the General Assembly routinely suspends the law, according to The State newspaper.

Sheheen’s bill still needs to be fleshed out, but he’s proposed stretching the salary increases over a number of years to create less of a financial strain. By spanning the bumps in salary over several years, the state can help ensure it meets the national average responsibly. Teachers last received a statewide raise in 2012 when lawmakers approved a 2 percent increase.

The salary increase will obviously not mean much if it’s not met with other reforms that will help improve our state’s education system.

That’s where reforms introduced by S.C. Gov. Nikki Haley come into play. The governor outlined a comprehensive education reform package this week aimed at improving the classrooms across the state, but especially in rural communities.

Combined with Sheheen’s proposal, Haley’s reforms can hopefully move our state out of the education basement when it comes to national rankings.

The governor’s initiative calls for $156 million in funding for the state’s education efforts. Some of the details of that price tag are expected to be released as part of the governor’s annual state budget recommendation, which is also expected to be unveiled this month.

As details emerge, it should be a priority to ensure an appropriate funding plan also exists.

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