A year ago this November, The Post and Courier published Minimally Adequate, a series highlighting lingering inequities within the South Carolina public education system. Our state hasn’t passed meaningful education reform since Governor Dick Riley spearheaded efforts in the 1980s. Minimally Adequate sparked a conversation that turned 2019 into the “year of education” in South Carolina.
So what has happened in the year since Minimally Adequate? A lot, and not very much at all.
Teachers began mobilizing, with 10,000 teachers and allies showing up at the State House on May 1st to demand reforms. This All Out Teacher rally may have been the largest collective gathering of teachers in the history of South Carolina. Following the rally, South Carolina legislators passed a FY20 budget addressing teacher concerns, primarily with a revised salary schedule raising the minimum salary to $35,000. This is a crucial step for teacher retention in rural districts that rely solely on state funding and have the highest teacher turnover rates.
At the local level, the Greenville County School Board unanimously approved a FY 20 budget that raised starting teacher salaries to $40,000, paving the way for other districts to do the same. The budget also included expenditures that reduced the ratio of students to school counselors, and ensured that all teachers have a minimum of 30 minutes planning time. These changes reflect steps toward the vision outlined in Blueprint 2023, Greenville County Schools’ five year strategic plan.
Is this the start of a new era of public education reform in South Carolina or will it fizzle out like other pushes? The answer lies with you. The convoluted and outdated education funding model that is the crux of the matter has yet to be addressed. We must maintain consistent public pressure on our lawmakers to ensure that education reform, particularly education funding reform, is a top priority. Our children deserve better than a “minimally adequate” education and we can ensure that they receive it. It will take a movement and the movement starts with you.