Jackson: Increasing teacher pay will make SC more attractive

February 7, 2014 

Darrell Jackson

— South Carolina is competing aggressively for manufacturing jobs from companies such as Boeing and Continental Tire, using economic incentives such as deferred state taxes, infrastructure improvements and partnerships with our state’s research universities. These are investments in our state’s future.

Why can’t we do the same for our teaching professionals, who are so vital for our state’s future generations?

The old saying that the pathway to prosperity runs through the school house is truer than ever. We are competing not just with 49 other states but with the rest of the world for new jobs. We can offer incentive package after incentive package to entice companies, but we need to invest in our most important commodity: our youth.

Having a well-trained teacher in every classroom is fundamental for our state’s investment in us. Teaching is not a profession for everyone; it’s a calling for some of the most dedicated men and women in our state. Parents must have a high level of trust in a person who is such a major influence in the lives of their children. Paying teachers a competitive salary helps us keep them committed to a noble and challenging profession.

According to the National Education Association, the national average salary for a classroom teacher is $51,477. In South Carolina it’s $47,050, which is 8.5 percent below the national average and ranks 33rd nationally.

I have joined with a bipartisan group of senators to introduce legislation to bring our average in line with the national average over a five-year phase-in period.

We are not simply offering a pay raise. Salary increases are tied to professional teaching standards. Teachers must hold a valid professional certificate, meet the qualifying standards of their teaching area and meet the basic skill levels prescribed by the State Board of Education.

Over the past year, we have seen some extremely positive steps in improving public education in South Carolina. The Senate led an effort to expand 4-year-old kindergarten for at-risk children to more than 50 school districts. We saw innovative plans to help parents of children with special needs get access to educational programs. And we are seeing renewed efforts to make 4-year-old kindergarten universal.

I’m glad the conversation about education finally is improving from draining funding from public schools to talking about what needs to be done to make them better. An investment in our teachers is a major step toward making South Carolina an economic power in this country and the world.

Sen. Darrell Jackson

Columbia

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