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Analysis: South Carolina teachers earn less than two decades ago

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(The Center Square) — A new report shows that schools nationwide, including in South Carolina, are having trouble filling teacher positions, with salaries being a primary cause.

An analysis from MyElearningWorld.com found that new teachers nationwide earn nearly 20% less than they did about two decades ago, taking inflation into account. South Carolina’s findings align with the national findings, with Palmetto State teachers earning 22% less.

Last year, a South Carolina task force made a series of recommendations for recruiting and retaining teachers, including raising the minimum starting salary to at least $50,000 annually by fiscal 2026. The roughly $40.9 billion fiscal 2024-25 budget lawmakers are considering includes $200 million to increase teacher salaries.

“Regarding teachers, we must continue our remarkable progress to raise teacher pay,” Republican Gov. Henry McMaster said in his January State of the State.

According to the governor, the minimum starting salary of a South Carolina teacher is $42,500, up from $30,113 in the 2017-18 school year. McMaster’s proposed Executive Budget increased teachers’ starting pay to $45,000 next year, working toward a minimum starting salary of at least $50,000 by 2026.

“The push in South Carolina to boost the minimum starting salary is a necessary move,” Scott Winstead, founder and editor-in-chief for MyElearningWorld.com, told The Center Square via email. “It’s good to see lawmakers taking steps toward recognizing the true value of educators.

“The current proposed increase, a significant jump from where we stood just a decade ago, shows a strong commitment to meeting Governor Henry McMaster’s goal for a $50,000 starting salary by 2026,” Winstead added. “Showing teachers they are respected and valued attracts passionate, talented individuals to the profession. Investing in our teachers is investing in our future. Quality education is the foundation of a thriving community, and by ensuring our educators are well-compensated, we’re laying down the foundation for a brighter, more prosperous future for South Carolina.”

In the 2017-18 school year, the average teacher salary was $50,182, “well below the southeastern average,” McMaster said. In the 2022-23 school year, teachers’ average salary was $57,737, surpassing the southeastern average and a 15% increase over five years.

“That is good news,” McMaster said.

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