Politics & Government

Pay raises coming for SC school teachers, state employees

South Carolina’s more than 52,000 public school teachers and 32,000 other state employees are likely getting a pay raise this year.

The S.C. Senate passed the state’s $9.3 billion budget late Thursday in a 38-6 vote after a two-day debate that featured fights over home rule, money for the state’s only historically black technical college and teacher raises.

In adopting the most recent draft of the budget, senators agreed to spend $159 million next year to raise teachers’ minimum salary to $35,000 — up from $32,000 — and give all teachers at least a 4% pay raise. Teachers with fewer than five years of experience would get a higher raise as state lawmakers aim to recruit young, talented teachers.

An effort to raise every teacher’s pay by 5% by Senate Education Committee chairman Greg Hembree, R-Horry, failed.

Senators also agreed to spend $41 million to raise state employee pay by 2%. Nearly all of those employees have not gotten a raise in two years. Unlike the House, which wrote the first draft of the budget, the Senate decided to spend $20 million to give state workers who make less than $70,000 a year a one-time $600 bonus.

House and Senate negotiators will meet later this month to negotiate the differences between their drafts of the budget and come up with a final version.

Efforts by some senators to give Denmark Technical College more money and preemptively block cities and counties from banning plastic bags were rejected by the full Senate. Some lawmakers have fought to put more money in Denmark Tech’s budget, hoping to keep the struggling college afloat after years of declining enrollment and financial challenges.

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Maayan Schechter (My-yahn Schek-ter) covers the S.C. State House and politics for The State. She grew up in Atlanta, Ga. and graduated from the University of North Carolina-Asheville. She has previously worked at the Aiken Standard and the Greenville News.