Study: Teacher vacancies up in South Carolina amid pandemic

COLUMBIA, S.C. — Teacher vacancies in South Carolina are up 26% compared to last year, according to a new study.

The findings lead teacher advocates and public education officials to say the coronavirus pandemic is worsening the state’s teacher shortage.

The State newspaper reports that school districts counted 699 teaching and service position vacancies at the start of this school year compared to 555 at the beginning of the prior academic year. The findings come from an annual report by the Center for Educator Recruitment, Retention and Advancement.

Education officials say the vacancies can lead to larger class sizes, more classes taught by long-term substitutes, and some specialized classes not being offered. Advocates also say the teacher exodus could mean problems for the state’s long-term recruitment and retention of teachers.

“The pandemic has intensified the teacher crisis in our state as evidenced by the report released,” state Superintendent of Education Molly Spearman said in a statement. “Now is the time for state and local leaders to come together for current and future educators by supporting financial incentives, policies, and programs that will help ensure we have a strong, high quality teacher workforce serving our students for years to come.”

In a recent budget request, the state Department of Education asked for nearly $52 million for teacher pay raises and another $50 million to reinstate annual step increases put on hold by the pandemic. The starting salary for a South Carolina public school teacher is $35,000.