Teachers, legislators, and community members gathered at Charleston Southern University to make their message clear: the state of South Carolina needs sweeping public education reforms.
Educators in Dorchester County say state funding policies have led to the degradation of education in their school district, and unless the state makes key changes, all public schools across the Lowcountry are in jeopardy.
A Stand Up for Public Education Reform rally was held Monday night.
Dorchester county education officials say teacher shortages and funding issues at their schools have gone too far.
A group of DD2 middle school teachers say their salaries are so low, they can’t afford to keep the jobs they love.
“It’s the teacher shortage, the lack of space for our students, and the class sizes,” DD2 Teacher Tiffany Dorris said.
Kristen Taylor, another DD2 teacher, says it’s lack of funding.
“Because of the funding structure in South Carolina, our district gets less money per pupil,” she said.
“I think our state needs to do more than what they’re doing now,” DD2 teacher Jennifer Whitten said.
“It’s a hard job, it’s a hard profession, but it should be more rewarding than it is. We have teachers giving all their personal time, working three jobs.”
Dorchester County Superintendent Joseph Pye said teachers in his district aren’t the only ones to suffer from unfair public school funding by the state.
“Of 82 school districts, we’re next to last for the money we have to spend for children,” Pye said. “We’ve got a fractured funding formula in this state for education that needs to be addressed.”
Speakers at the meeting noted lower teacher retention rates and salaries for teachers across South Carolina.
Jim Atkinson, an educator with 37 years of experience in Dorchester and Charleton counties, says the public needs to stand up for the local teachers before South Carolina’s public education gets even worse.
“I would support them going on strike. I think our legislators need to step up,” he said.
New statistics shared at the meeting showed an increasing number of the state’s teachers are leaving to teach at public schools in other states, increasing every year since 2015.
Last year, South Carolina lost about 2,300 to public schools in other states.
The starting salary for South Carolina’s public school teachers is under $32,000 a year, well below the national standard.