Politics & Government

SC teachers are angry with the Legislature. Kamala Harris has her own education plan

‘Let’s speak truth’: Presidential hopeful Kamala Harris lays out ideals and plans at Rock Hill’s Winthrop University

Presidential hopeful Kamala Harris, a democratic senator from California, made a campaign stop at Winthrop University in Rock Hill Friday. Harris talked about teacher pay, prison reform, climate change and healthcare to a crowd of hundreds.
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Presidential hopeful Kamala Harris, a democratic senator from California, made a campaign stop at Winthrop University in Rock Hill Friday. Harris talked about teacher pay, prison reform, climate change and healthcare to a crowd of hundreds.

The day before South Carolina teachers were set to march on the State House, Kamala Harris sat down with educators to promote her own education plan.

The senator from California is pushing for federal investment in teacher pay for the first time as she campaigns for the Democratic presidential nomination. On Monday, she held a round table with invited teachers about her plan in front of about 50 people at Brookland Baptist Church.

“Part of my teacher pay initiative will give higher salaries to rural communities and high-need communities,” Harris said, including in what she said was South Carolina’s “aptly named” Corridor of Shame, a string of poor, largely African-American counties along Interstate 95.

“Shame on us for not putting the funding into an area,” she said.

Harris met with the educators as teachers prepare to rally Wednesday for higher pay and more support from state lawmakers. Several school districts have canceled classes because teachers are planning not to report to their classroom to instead attend Wednesday’s protest.

As president, Harris would call for a law to raises teacher salaries in the United States by an average of 23%. Under her plan, the federal government would start off by giving each state the first 10% of funding needed to close the teacher pay gap, then encourage states to close the remainder of the gap by investing $3 for every $1 states contribute toward meeting that goal.

A version of Harris’s plan has been introduced into the S.C. Legislature by state Rep. JA Moore, D-Berkeley, who says the bill would give teachers a salary increase of 19% within four years.

On Tuesday, Harris said her plan would also boost funding for education courses at historically black colleges and universities in hopes of producing more teachers of color.

“We know that in communities of color that are also low-income, we have a dearth of teachers in those communities,” Harris said, arguing having more African-American teachers, especially male teachers, could improve minority students’ performance.

She also promoted the need to expand broadband internet in rural areas, something Rep. Jim Clyburn, D-Columbia, worked to include in Congress’s federal infrastructure plan after hearing stories of students doing homework in parking lots to pick up free Wi-Fi.

“This elevates the teaching profession, and that’s something we as teachers have been advocating for years,” said Traci Young Cooper, a former teacher and administrator at Richland District One, who took part in the event.

“And that’s what tomorrow represents,” Young Cooper said of Wednesday’s planned protest.

The roundtable came as 2020 candidates try to get involved with the education reform movement that could flood the State House grounds. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., will hold a conference call with a group of S.C. teachers on Wednesday, and several other presidential campaigns will have staffers and supporters on the ground during the rally.

The 2020 spotlight has not been welcomed by all education advocates. State Sen. Mike Fanning, D-Fairfield, who has been an advocate for the teachers’ cause at the State House, told The State he fears too many candidates’ involvement will take the focus off of teachers and their concerns.

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Bristow Marchant is currently split between covering Richland County and the 2020 presidential race. He has more than 10 years’ experience covering South Carolina. He won the S.C. Press Association’s 2015 award for Best Series on a toxic Chester County landfill fire, and was part of The State’s award-winning 2016 election coverage.
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