CCSD’s Chief Human Resources Officer Bill Briggman wrote this editorial that appeared in the Post & Courier on October 8, 2018
While these conversations and the debate over the funding of school districts have been taking place, our teaching force has been decreasing significantly. Those losses have been in subject areas such as math and science, which have consistently been difficult to fill.
The fact is that candidates in general are decreasing. Statistics since 2010 indicate a 24.3 percent decline in teacher preparation enrollment in South Carolina and a 20.9 percent decline in the Southeast. This equates to approximately 14,000 fewer candidates preparing to be educators.
Simultaneously, our experienced teachers are reaching retirement eligibility. The state TERI program’s recent expiration sets an earning cap of $10,000 for retirees who return to the classroom after completing their TERI obligation. Consequently, experienced teachers who may be interested in remaining in the profession have no incentive to do so.
This is not just a school district issue with recruitment and retention. It is a business and community issue as it relates to our future workforce.
For the 2018-19 school year, the state of South Carolina approved a 1 percent cost of living increase for teachers. Charleston County School District went further and approved, on average, a 4 percent cost of living increase that included the state mandated 1 percent plus an additional 3 percent.
The efforts taken by our superintendent, Dr. Gerrita Postlewait, and our Board of Trustees to address the teacher shortage issue by focusing on teacher compensation have paid off — we filled our vacancies.
To put such an accomplishment for a district the size of CCSD in perspective:
• We have 3,400 teachers.
• Average turnover rate is 14 percent.
• We posted 740 positions for 2019.
• We hired 519 brand new teachers.
• We started the school year with only two vacancies.
Dr. Postlewait and the board made a commitment to increase teacher salaries beyond what the state mandates by implementing a three-year phase-in plan. Our goal is to be the highest paying district in the state by the fall of 2020.
This commitment is already impacting teachers across CCSD in a positive way. For instance, a first-year teacher who earned $36,070 last year will earn $38,258 this year. Our goal is to increase the starting salary to $40,000 by the fall of 2020.
Last year, a teacher with a master’s degree and 15 years of experience would earn $54,507 in 2020. This teacher would earn $57,882 in 2019 and $61,243 in 2020. By 2021, this teacher would earn $64,730, reflecting a salary increase of $10,000 from 2018 to 2021.
Dr. Postlewait and the board have addressed the shortage of math teachers. The number of math teachers exiting colleges and universities has dwindled, but the need has increased.
To address supply and demand, the board approved a math teacher salary schedule for our high-poverty middle and high schools.
With this schedule, new math teachers at a high poverty school will have a starting salary of $45,000. The teacher with a master’s degree and 15 years of experience earned $54,507 during the 2018 school year. Now, with 16 years of experience, earnings are $70,270. This plan allowed us to fill our math positions with new graduates and experienced math teachers.
Teacher compensation remains a topic of debate. Low compensation for careers requiring advanced degrees and continued training to maintain licensure negatively impacts the profession in general and our children specifically.
I am convinced that a competitive salary structure will help recruitment and, more importantly, retention of teachers. High school and college students will find teaching a more appealing career path if they know it will provide them with a livable salary.
The cost of living in Charleston is high. Our teachers are entrusted with educating our greatest asset — our children — and they need to be compensated at a level that allows them to live comfortably in the communities they serve.
Chief Human Resource Officer Charleston County School District