COLUMBIA, S.C. — The largest organization of professional educators has released its 2021 to-do list for South Carolina lawmakers.
The Palmetto State Teachers Association released its legislative agenda Monday, around six weeks ahead of the Jan. 12, 2021 start of the 124th session of the South Carolina General Assembly.
The association's top priorities are improving teacher recruitment and retention through improved pay and benefits, providing students with greater interventions and support in early literacy, providing teachers with protected planning and work time during the school day, reducing and enforcing state regulations for class size caps and max student loads and a reduction of standardized testing.
Improved pay and benefits
The association's agenda calls for a first order of business for the General Assembly to be fulfilling the previous session's promises to teachers to retroactively fund step pay increases for the 2020-2021 fiscal year.
South Carolina teachers are divided into groups based on how long they have served as a teacher. Each level of service a teacher reaches is a new step. Each new step the teacher reaches means a higher salary.
Next, the agenda calls for an increase in teacher starting pay to $40,000 from the current $35,000, an additional increase of 8% for each step in the state salary scale, and an increase in the number of steps in the scale from 23 to 28.
Also listed on the agenda are state funded costs of certification, supplements for nationally board certified teachers, increased instructional support staff, mentoring programs for teachers through their first three years, reforming professional development and certificate renewal, paid family leave and improvement of the state health plan.
The agenda calls for state funding of summer reading and math enrichment activities for students in Kindergarten, first and second grades, state funded reading professional development for teachers and amending of the Read to Succeed legislation to allow reading coaches to work with students.
Protected planning time
In terms of protected planning time, the agenda calls for weekly uninterrupted planning time, unencumbered lunch times and no-less than seven protected teacher workdays for work and development.
The agenda calls for a reduction in the state mandated number of students in a class from 30 for K-3 and 35 for grades 4-12 and enforcement of the caps in districts throughout the state.
The agenda asks lawmakers to reduce the number of standardized tests by reducing the number of tests not required by federal legislation, re-evaluating the design of federally-mandated tests and elimination of the connection between test scores and student grades in classes with an end-of-course exam.