While the S.C. House has voted to give teachers a 2 percent raise, some school districts could skip those raises if they can prove they don’t have the money to pay them.
The House budget committee voted last month to give an extra $152 million to school districts so that they could give their employees 2 percent raises. But lawmakers also took away some money from school districts in other parts of their budget proposal. In some cases, that means school districts would get less money in the state’s new fiscal year, which starts July 1, than they received this year.
“You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to figure out you can’t give a 2 percent pay raise if you get less money,” House Minority Leader Harry Ott, D-Calhoun, said Tuesday.
That’s why a group of Republicans and Democrats Tuesday pushed through a proposal that would give school districts an extra $6 million to $8 million to pay for the salary increases.
Lawmakers took the money from the administration of some education programs, including a reading initiative and some professional development programs. Those programs still exist, the Department of Education will just have less money to run them.
Ott, the House minority leader, said during the second day of the House’s week-long budget debate, that the extra $6 million should be enough money to guarantee raises for all school district employees.
But school funding formulas are so complex lawmakers are concerned some districts still might not have enough money to give the raises. If that’s the case, then districts would have to give as much of the raise as they can afford, then apply to the state Board of Education for a waiver, including documenting why they can’t give the full raise.
A waiver only would be required for principals and lower ranking school workers. If a school district wants not to give a raise to district-level administrators, it does not need a waiver.
“The reason we put that there is to force people to put in writing and demonstrate their ability, not just to say, ‘(We) can’t do it,’ ” said state Rep. Kenny Bingham, who lead the House budget subcommittee on education.
The Calhoun County School District, which has more than 300 employees, could be one district applying for a wavier, according to superintendent Steve Wilson. Wilson said Calhoun’s portion of the extra $6 million would mean “everybody would get a little bit more, but a little bit more still might not be enough for us.”
“We’ve run the figures, and ... if we had to give 2 percent to everybody with the money that we are projected to get, it just wouldn’t be enough,” Wilson said. “(A waiver) may be the route we’d have to take.”
Tuesday’s House budget debate was dominated by education, including a lengthy debate over an amendment from state Rep. Bakari Sellers, D-Bamberg, that would have required the state Department of Education to accept more money from the federal government, if it is offered. State Rep. James Smith, D-Richland, also sponsored an amendment that would have allowed new teachers to make more money if they become National Board certified.
The Republican-controlled House defeated both amendments.
The budget debate is scheduled to continue today.