Teacher shortage in South Carolina as the state lags in paying competitive salaries

CHARLESTON (WCBD) – Retaining teachers is a problem in South Carolina, with school districts losing teachers in Kindergarten through twelfth grade classrooms.

One of the main reasons teachers in the state are leaving the profession — salaries are falling short. Some educators say they are incurring debt just to make ends meet and are deciding to find a new career altogether.

Recruiting, developing and retaining teaching talent is a real challenge.  

“Teachers go above and beyond every single day,” said Dr. Michael Goler, a teacher at Burke High School in Charleston. “There certainly are some disgruntled when you look at the overall teacher pay and South Carolina is one of the lowest in terms of teaching salaries in the country.”

Dr. Goler understands that one of the main reasons for the shortage is that salaries are not competitive enough.

He is a Navy veteran, a retired physician, and moved to Charleston to become a teacher. He wanted to give back, showing a passion for the profession.

“I said to myself, ‘Well if I get down there and I’m completely retired, I’m going to want to find something to do’.”

Dr. Goller is unique — 4,842 certified teachers in South Carolina did not return to the classroom for the 2016-17 school year, according to a non-profit called the American Board.

The group wants to create a larger pool of certified teachers in South Carolina. The American Board says recruiting more teachers in local school districts takes financial incentives, but also different pathways for licensing.

“It’s true that the focus on recruiting teachers is focused a lot on salary, but there’s also the consideration of how teachers are treated on the job,” said Jennifer Burkhardt, a spokesperson for the American Board. “If teachers feel respected and supported in their classroom environment by fellow colleagues and school leadership, that is absolutely crucial.”

While the teacher shortage is well-documented, the effects it has on students is hard to measure.

South Carolina is often ranked low in reading and math scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress, which is sometimes known as the nation’s report card.

According to Teacher Portal, South Carolina has a starting teacher salary of $32,306 and an average teacher salary of $48,375.

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