As we documented a few months ago, a looming teacher shortage resulting from Baby Boomers retiring and a lack of Millennials to replace them in the classroom has begun to hit Charleston County hard enough to warrant a response.
Charleston County School Superintendent Gerrita Postlewait has proposed that the school district hike starting teacher pay by $4,000 to $40,000 after numerous conversations with potential first-year teachers who declined positions because they couldn’t make ends meet on the salary.
Postlewait told the Post and Courier, “”I don’t believe I’ve talked to any first-year teacher — who isn’t in a second-income home — who doesn’t have a second or a third job.”
The school district lists 50 vacant positions. It isn’t alone. Rural counties are struggling even worse. The Cherokee County School District offered $10,000 signing bonuses this year.
Berkeley County, operating with 52 fewer teachers than it needs this school year, has offered bonuses and relocation expenses to attract teachers.
John Read, executive director of Tri-County Cradle to Career told the Business Journal that the shortage is starting to become critical in STEM curricula. “This issue of teacher shortage, particularly in STEM, will virtually halt the efforts to fill all of the critical occupational gaps that we have unless we address it,” Read said.
The problem, says teachers, transcends money. They complain about unsupportive administrators and school boards, the increasing demands on them to fix students from dysfunctional families, and declining respect from the public at large. The result is an exodus from the profession.
The Charleston Regional Business Journal reports that 4,800 teachers across the state left their positions in 2016 and either left South Carolina or the profession altogether. Meanwhile, enrollment in education programs across the state declined by four percent.
The shift in supply has challenged school districts around the nation, but it will soon be critical in the Lowcountry. As the population swells, the demand for teachers and administrators is growing. Berkeley County is expecting enrollment to triple by 2035.
Ironically, these developments make it a great time to become a teacher. The Lowcountry Graduate Center (LGC) hosts a certificate program for Gifted and Talented Education through the University of Charleston, which is also developing aMAT program in Special Education. LGC also offers graduate courses in Elementary Education from the University of Charleston and Middle School Education in a joint program of the University of Charleston and The Citadel.