The state’s growing grassroots teachers’ group on Monday threw its support behind seven legislative bills they want passed in 2019.
At the top of the list is S.4, a Senate proposal to raise S.C. teacher salaries by 5 percent, at a cost of nearly $155 million.
Lisa Ellis, founder of SCforED — which boasts a Facebook following of more than 19,000 members, mostly teachers — said the grassroot group’s board met for five hours Sunday to pick out proposals they believe would help teachers the most.
“There were a lot of gray bills out there,” Ellis said. “We needed some that would affect their (teacher’s) lives as soon as possible.”
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Teachers’ groups expect education reform to be a top priority when the General Assembly returns to Columbia Jan. 8. They have warned lawmakers that teachers will continue to flee the classroom for better jobs unless the General Assembly raises teacher salaries and reduces other burdens, such as state-mandated testing, that make the job onerous.
The Republican-controlled House has vowed to take on education reform, led by S.C. House Speaker Jay Lucas, R-Darlington.
In addition to SCforEd, the S.C. Department of Education and other S.C. teacher’s groups — the Palmetto State Teachers Association and the S.C. Education Association — also support a 5-percent raise for the state’s roughly 53,000 teachers.
“We want to reach the southeastern average, hoping that will ... at least stop the blood flow of teachers leaving,” Ellis said.
SCforEd also will push for:
▪ H. 3215, to protect teachers’ jobs when they voice their opinions on public policy
▪ S. 240, which gives districts latitude to determine for themselves when the school calendar begins each year
▪ H. 3255, to dissolve the nonpartisan legislative Education Oversight Committee
▪ S. 255, to help repeal Act 388, the 2006 law exempting owner-occupied homes from paying operating taxes for schools
▪ S. 233, which would reduce testing and increase teacher salaries to the nation’s average, near $59,000 a year.
“I want them (lawmakers) to recognize that teachers are the experts of what needs to be done for the student,” Ellis said.
State Rep. Neal Collins, R-Pickens — a vocal education advocate who has pre-filed a handful of education bills, including H. 3215 — said Monday he is pleased House leadership has made education a priority.
“I come from a mobile home community, and that (education) was my way out,” Collins said. “Anything we can do to better educate our populace is going to be an investment for the future.”