Teachers could see pay freeze in 2009, along with end to national certification bonuses

December 15, 2008 

  • A state education committee that favors doing away with bonuses for future nationally certified teachers has recommended that teacher pay in South Carolina be frozen for the next fiscal year because of declining sales-tax revenue. Teachers still would be eligible for step pay increases based on years of experience and advanced academic degrees, but the state salary schedule would not be raised to meet the 2009 projected average for Southeastern states. The average teacher salary in South Carolina is $47,376, according to the state Education Oversight Committee. That is $372 above the 2008 average for the Southeast. But if the salary schedule is frozen, South Carolina would be $885 behind the projected 2009 Southeastern average. Dana Yow, communications director for the committee, said next year could be the first since 1984 that South Carolina hasn't paid teachers at or above the Southeastern average. If salaries are raised to meet the regional average, 1,000 teachers would lose their jobs because there won't be enough tax revenue to pay them, Yow said. "It really came down to the question of saving teacher jobs versus teacher pay raises," she said. By Kate Cerve

One day before the Beaufort County School District announced 14 of its teachers earned National Board Certification this year, an education committee recommended that the state end its $7,500 annual bonus for teachers who become certified under the prestigious program.

Those who already have applied for the certification or those who are certified would continue to receive the money, paid each year for 10 years. However, some who were considering certification but have not yet started the process might now think twice about the investment of their time and money.

Michele Dubbs, a kindergarten teacher at Coosa Elementary School, said she was ready to begin the certification process in February. After hearing the financial incentive might be eliminated, she decided to put the project on hold and is instead considering a master's degree to boost her salary.

"(Teachers) don't make a whole lot, and we spend so much of our own money in the classrooms," Dubbs said. "I will eventually do it, but right now, my family would like to raise our standard of living a little."

Many school districts in the state offer incentives in addition to the state bonus for earning National Board Certification. Beaufort County offers $2,000 annually for 10 years.

Projected declines of $103 million in sales tax revenue led the state-appointed Education Oversight Committee to vote Dec. 8 to end the 10-year bonus for teachers who earn certification in the future from the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards.

The committee will submit its recommendation to the General Assembly, which will start work on the state budget next month.

South Carolina has the third-highest number of teachers certified by the National Board in the country, behind North Carolina and Florida. About

13 percent, or 6,500, teachers in the state are certified.

National Board Certification involves a rigorous application process that takes one to three years and costs $2,500 to apply.

The $7,500 bonus South Carolina offers is the highest of the nine Southeastern states that offer an annual bonus, according to the Education Oversight Committee.

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