‘We want education fully funded’: Some York County teachers will join May 1 rally

Why are SC teachers fleeing at record rates? Here’s a look at the crisis by the numbers

SC teachers are leaving the SC public school system at a rapid pace, deterred by factors from low pay to discipline issues in the classroom.
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SC teachers are leaving the SC public school system at a rapid pace, deterred by factors from low pay to discipline issues in the classroom.

Some York County teachers are joining their peers in a fight for better pay, smaller class sizes and a voice in education policies.

South Carolina teachers will rally at the statehouse Wednesday.

More than 5,000 people have registered for the march, with more expected the day of, said Saani Perry, a board member for SC for ED.

SC for Ed, a group of teachers and others advocating for education reform, have been vocal about the need for teacher pay raises, more education funding and fewer standardized tests. Follow #AllOutMay1 and #FullyFundED for updates.

Former teacher Elizabeth Walen describes how a shift in education - away from individualized learning and towards test preparation - made her work as a teacher unpleasant.

“After nearly a year of engaging with policymakers, we have reached a point where educator voices have fallen on deaf ears,” an SC for Ed statement says.

Dozens of teachers in York County plan to take the trip to Columbia, said Perry, who teaches eighth-grade math and science in Fort Mill.

“We want to help the Legislature to understand that we want education to be fully funded,” Perry said. “If we can fully fund education that will take care of a bulk of the issues we see.”

Multiple South Carolina school districts canceled class Wednesday because of the protest, including Chester County, Richland 1, Lexington-Richland 5, Colleton and Dorchester 2, The State newspaper in Columbia reported.

Chester Superintendent Angela Bain said in a statement: “Because many of our teachers have asked for this day as a personal day of leave, we are allowing them to take this day to advocate for public education and for their students.

“With the School Board and Superintendent’s approval, we support our educators and their decision to exercise their collective voices. For this reason, we will be canceling school for all students and staff on May 1, 2019. We appreciate the Chester County citizens’ support of public education in Chester County and across our state.”

During a special called meeting Monday, the Chester County school board voted to waive the make-up day for May 1. Under state law, students have to make up the first three days of missed school. After that, the school board can vote to waive up to three more missed days.

York County schools will be open on a normal schedule Wednesday.

South Carolina schools Superintendent Molly Spearman voiced her opposition to the march, The State reported.

“I support teachers using their voice to advocate for needed change and share in their commitment to ensuring reforms become reality,” Spearman said. “However, I cannot support teachers walking out on their obligations to South Carolina students, families, and the thousands of hardworking bus drivers, cafeteria workers, counselors, aides and custodial staff whose livelihoods depend on our schools being operational.”

Gov. Henry McMaster encouraged teachers to stay in their classrooms, according to The State.

The governor “believes that teachers leaving their classrooms sends the wrong message to students, unnecessarily disrupts schools, and inconveniences their students’ working parents,” said his spokesperson, Brian Symmes, The State previously reported.

Perry said the march is not a walkout, but a chance for educators to voice their concerns and stand together. Many teachers across the state are using personal days to attend the rally.

“We’re seeing educators using their voice. For too long, educators have felt pushed aside and we felt our voice didn’t matter,” Perry said. “Educators in South Carolina are tired. We’re tired of our students not receiving what they should. 

“It’s time to do what’s best for our children.”

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Amanda Harris covers issues related to children and families in York, Chester and Lancaster County for The Herald. Amanda works with local schools, parents and community members to address important topics such as school security, mental health and the opioid epidemic. She graduated from Winthrop University.
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