Teachers could get a one percent raise on top of a proposed base salary increase to $32,000 from $30,000 under a plan before the state Senate budget writers.
The plan raises teacher pay levels—based on years of experience—through an $85 increase in the base student cost, which is $2,425. That base–the cost of educating the average student–lags more than $500 behind the $2,984 state budget officials say is needed to fund a so-called minimally adequate education in South Carolina.
The House proposal funded a two percent pay increase for teachers through an added $60 million.
Despite underfunding the base student cost, budget officials estimate districts will collect $13,214 per pupil on average this fiscal year, which ends in June. That figure spans local, state and federal sources, with the state funding the majority share in most districts.
“What we’ve done over the years is established other funding streams like the education improvement act and the education accountability act and on down the line,” Sen. Tom Davis told the Senate Finance Committee Thursday. “If you add all the funding streams together, we’re above the national average in per pupil funding,” the Beaufort Republican said.
Despite per pupil funding, South Carolina has ranked near the bottom for multiple rankings in recent years. U. S. News and World Report rated the state 36th in 2017, based on college readiness and Advanced Placement testing at high achieving schools nationwide.
Another recent ranking by the publication graded the state 48th in the nation in overall education.
The cause of this gap between funding and outcomes? Relatively low teacher pay, according to legislators.
“When you take that average, you’re lumping in some very wealthy school districts that spend a lot of money,” said Sen. Vincent Sheheen, who co-chairs the subcommittee that proposed the increase. That explains the dramatic variance in salary across districts, the Camden Democrat said.
For more information, see our chart comparing district funding and student outcomes.