Education

Fort Mill becomes top paying school district in York County for teachers

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South Carolina teachers, students and advocates marched to the State House to call on lawmakers to increase their pay and approve reforms that improve the state’s public schools.

Fort Mill joins other York County school districts increasing teacher salaries.

A new teacher with no experience in Fort Mill will make $40,250 starting in 2019-2020, district leaders announced Wednesday. The increase will make Fort Mill the highest paying district in York County for teachers.

Currently, a Fort Mill teacher with a bachelor’s degree and no experience makes $36,800 and a teacher with at least 25 years of experience who holds a doctorate degree makes $76,688, according to the district.

The new salary is above the national average of $39,249 and the South Carolina average of $33,148, according to 2017-’18 average starting teacher salaries provided by the National Education Association.

“In a time when teacher compensation has been a major topic of discussion, our district and board remain committed to offering competitive salaries to teachers in order to maintain our high standards of education for the long term,” Superintendent Chuck Epps said in a prepared statement. “We are proud to be a leader in the state in both education and teacher compensation.”

Compared to other schools

Fort Mill’s decision comes as schools across the region are increasing teacher pay. On May 1, York County teachers joined thousands of educators in a march on the state’s Department of Education offices advocating for higher pay, education reform and fewer standardized tests.

The Rock Hill school district is raising the first-year teacher salary to a minimum of $39,899 in 2019-’20, The Herald previously reported. The district also announced May 30 a $1,000 bonus for certified staff and a $500 bonus for all support staff, to be paid in the fall.

Clover school district leaders have proposed increasing starting teacher pay to $40,075 for 2019-’20.

First-year teachers in Chester County will make a minimum of $38,851, according to the district.

York Preparatory Academy, a public charter school in Rock Hill, approved raising new teacher pay to $40,000.

In Greenville County, one of the state’s largest school districts, a teacher with a bachelor’s and no experience currently makes $35,755 and the highest paid teachers with a doctor’s degree and at least 30 years of experience makes $84,981, according to the district.

Greenville County served in 2017-’18 75,471 students, according to the district report card released from S.C. Department of Education.

In Charleston County, which had 48,937 students enrolled as of its 2017-’18 state report card, new teachers currently make $38,258 and the highest paid teachers with a doctorate degree and at least 30 years’ experience makes $78,432, according to the district.

All teachers in South Carolina will see a mandated raise. South Carolina lawmakers gave final approval in May to a $9.3 billion state budget that includes a 4% pay raise for teachers and sets the starting teacher salary at $35,000, reports The State newspaper. Gov. Henry McMaster still needs to sign the budget into law.

Fort Mill budget

Fort Mill’s teacher pay increase is included in the district’s $149.9 million 2019-2020 school budget, which the school board approved Tuesday.

The budget includes a 4% salary increase for all employees and a step increase for eligible employees. The budget also allocates for new positions related to growth and the opening of Catawba Ridge High School, according to the district.

Local businesses won’t have to pay more in school taxes in 2019-’20 thanks to the Fort Mill school district’s increased fees on new development, along with savings from the reselling of recent bonds and an increase in the district’s assessed value, district spokesperson Joe Burke said last month.

The district’s new development fees (commonly known as impact fees) were raised in 2018 from $2,500 per new residence to more than $18,000 for each home and $12,000 for each apartment unit, The Herald previously reported.

“We believe it is the mission of the school board to ensure our students receive a high quality education and our taxpayers have remained supportive of the district as we have managed the growth in our area,” school board chair Kristy Spears said in a statement sent Wednesday. “It is also our goal to be responsible community partners and use options when available to support our community as they have supported us.”

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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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