Legislature Voted for Teacher Pay Raise, Not for Money to Fund It

Teachers in South Carolina have the General Assembly to thank for a revamped salary schedule that makes the minimum pay for a starting teacher at least $35,000. Teachers also are to receive guaranteed pay increases, “step increases”, for each year they serve as a teacher. But there’s a problem with this pay raise. The General Assembly guaranteed the pay increases but provided no money to pay the additional salary. Finding money to pay for the increase is left up to the individual school districts across the state.

Jim Barton, Chairman of the Laurens County School District 56 Board of Trustees said last night that he thought it important that the public know that Legislature says that they raised teacher pay when all they really did was cast a vote. He said there is no pay raise until someone comes up with the money to fund it. That job now falls on each school district.

In the case of District 56 the total cost for pay increases resulting from the Legislature’s vote is $482,000 for the 2019/2020 school year. That includes the increased guaranteed starting salary, all the “step increases”, a 4% raise that District 56 provided to its employees who are not teachers and a 1% increase for administrators. Mr. Barton explained the 4% raise for non-certified employees by saying “It’s just not right to raise pay for only one set of employees. It takes all the employees of the district to make this work for our students. It’s a team effort.” Barton made those comments during a public hearing for the 2019/2020 district budget of $26,600,720. The budget is balanced, according to District 56 Finance Director Susan Flanagan and maintains the same tax millage (167.5 mills) that has been in place since the 2013/2014 school year.

Later last night, the District 56 School Trustees voted to approve the budget as presented with board member Tammy Stewart casting the only dissenting vote.