South Carolina faces superintendent vote amid teacher shortage


COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) – Students in South Carolina are starting a new school year but reverting to an old problem.

The state is experiencing a well-documented teacher shortage that will be on display again this fall.

The problem is pronounced in Richland County, where Richland School District 1 reports a teacher shortage of 181 as of Aug. 2, while Richland School District 2 reports 103 vacancies as of July 28.

This year, parents can vote to see who helps solve the problem.

Democrat Lisa Ellis and Republican Ellen Weaver are both vying for state superintendent of education and have both made teacher recruitment and retention a priority in their campaigns.

The office does not control the state budget or state law, but can serve as a bully-for-the-winner pulpit to encourage districts and legislators to adopt positions desired by the superintendent.

Both candidates are running to raise teachers’ salaries, but the winner would need the legislature to approve such a move. This is something lawmakers have acted on in the past.

Weaver works on teacher professional development, community involvement in schools (including faith groups and veterans), and researching alternative routes to teacher certification.

“I’ve never heard a teacher tell me that it was that third year pedagogy course that made them a great teacher. They always talk about another teacher who mentored them or a principal who coached them. she says. “So I think if we can find more ways to get teachers into the classroom earlier, we’ll have a better chance of equipping them with the real-world skills they need to not just get into the classroom but to stay in. class. “

Ellis is operating with higher salaries for essential staff, reformed teacher contracts, communication with districts and reduced bureaucracy.

Ellis campaign communications consultant Emily Mayer said Ellis’ goal would be to leverage the office to help implement culture change.

“I think we need to start encouraging people to change the narrative of what it’s like to be a teacher in a public school. I think as a society we kind of scared off people who might have the heart and the care and who would be a fantastic teacher, but maybe were put off because of the talk that took place” , she said. “So Lisa strongly believes that education is not something that has to be a political game, it’s something that she has proven by not being a politician but by being a teacher in this race.”

A spreadsheet from the Center for Educator Recruitment, Retention and Advancement (CERRA) shows that the number of graduates graduating in education has remained largely flat since 2017.

Early voting for the November general election (including the superintendent race) is scheduled to begin on October 24.

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