South Carolina has a teacher problem.
The state has about 4,000 teacher vacancies every year from retirements and people either moving out of state or quitting the profession, while only 2,000 of its college graduates go into education annually. It also has an especially hard time finding teachers for rural areas and specific subjects.
“We have a hard time, just like every state, finding math, science, foreign language, and special ed teachers,” said Kathy Maness, executive director of the Palmetto State Teachers Association.
Lawmakers are looking for ways to attract and retain teachers, meeting this week with representatives from teacher organizations in the state in hopes of drafting legislation come the beginning of their next legislative session in January.
Sen. Wes Hayes (R), chair of the education committee, said the state will conduct a study and will look into how to make it easier for administrators to remove ineffective teachers, tying salary to performance instead of how long a teacher has taught and what his or her education level is, and offering teachers student loan forgiveness.
“We’d like to have the study completed by January,” Hayes said. “We probably will have legislation that results from the study.”
Bernadette Hampton, president of the South Carolina Education Association, said she’s glad lawmakers are coming to teachers for advice, something that hasn’t happened in the past.
“I think that teachers’ ideas, voices, and opinions are not included,” she said. “I think that if that would change, that could help.”