• Joe Cunningham

Joe Cunningham Releases Plan to End Teacher Shortage Crisis in South Carolina

Plan includes record pay raises, paid parental leave, increased scholarship opportunities, and more freedom for teachers

Today, former Congressman and Democratic candidate for Governor Joe Cunningham released his plan to end the teacher shortage crisis in South Carolina.

South Carolina is currently facing an unprecedented teacher shortage. In just the last year, nearly 7,000 public school teachers in our state left their job. That’s nearly 1 in 7 teachers in this state. Last year, nearly 3 times as many teachers left the profession than joined it. And there are currently over 1,000 vacant teaching positions in our state.

There are countless challenges facing our public education system, but none more important than ending the teacher shortage. Joe’s plan focuses on two main goals to address this statewide emergency: recruitment and retention of quality educators.

Increase Teacher Pay to Record Levels

Teacher pay in South Carolina continues to be among the lowest in the country and Joe believes we cannot address the teacher shortage crisis unless we substantially raise teacher pay to record levels:

- Immediately increase every K-12 teacher and instructional aide’s salary by 10%

- Raise starting salaries from $36,000/year to $50,000/year by 2030

- Reform the minimum teacher salary schedule to align with activities that enhance performance and student achievement

12 Weeks of Paid Parental Leave

South Carolina currently offers no paid parental or family leave. Joe believes we should ensure teachers can grow their family without fear or going months without pay.

- Twelve weeks of paid parental leave for all public schoolteachers if the employee or their partner/spouse are having or adopting a child

Triple the Teaching Fellows Scholarship Program by the end of Joe’s administration

The Teaching Fellows Scholarship Program provides scholarships to college students majoring in education. Upon graduation and certification, Teaching Fellows must teach in a South Carolina public school for a number of years equal to the number of years the recipient was awarded the scholarship. Joe believes expanding this program allows future educators to receive their degrees and certifications without taking on high levels of debt and provides them with the support necessary to ensure long-term success.

- Increase the scholarship from $3,000/semester to $9,000/semester

- Expand the number of Teaching Fellows from 200 to 600

- Expand the number of colleges and universities that offer Educator-Prepared Programs and the Teaching Fellows Scholarship Program

Additional Classroom Support for Teachers

Joe understands how vital it is for schools to have the support systems necessary to meet student needs and allow teachers to focus on teaching.

- Lower class sizes and enforce caps

- Require and protect uninterrupted planning time

- Work with school districts to identify ways to increase support staff, including but not limited to teaching assistants, guidance counselors, social workers, mental health professionals, nurses, etc.

- Fund instructional aides through the state (instead of districts) and establish a minimum salary schedule

Trust Teachers to do Their Jobs

South Carolina teachers need the freedom to adapt their teaching strategies to best suit their students. Joe believes we should get Columbia politicians out of our classrooms and trust teachers to do their jobs while giving districts more flexibility.

- Reduce the amount of instructional time lost to testing

- Re-establish local control to allow school districts flexibility to meet student and teacher needs

- Remove mandates for specific recertification classes and allow teachers to select recertification requirements that best fit their professional goals

“As a father of a 4-year old son, the future of our public schools is personal to me,” Cunningham said. “There’s no more important issue in this state than improving our schools and educating the next generation. And we simply can’t do that without our teachers. This teacher shortage is an emergency and we have to treat it like one. There’s a lot at stake here and we aren’t going to be able to solve this problem by just minimum adjustments. Our plan is aggressive and bold - which is exactly what it will take to tackle this emergency.”

Click here to read Joe's Plan to end the Teacher Shortage Crisis