South Carolina teachers could soon get their additional pay bump promised by lawmakers.
On Tuesday, the Senate Finance Committee voted to reinstate teachers’ step increases based on their number of years in the classroom. The increase was frozen last year after the COVID-19 outbreak created revenue concerns.
The committee amended the bill to expand the eligibility list beyond teachers to school employees, including nurses.
The state Senate will take up the legislation next. It will have to return to the House before it goes to Gov. Henry McMaster’s desk.
Teachers and other eligible staff would get the added pay by June 15 through a lump sum.
The average teacher would get at least $650 more in their final paycheck of the school year before taxes, according to the state Department of Education. Teachers could get more as most districts have a pay scale above the state minimum salary schedule.
Teachers are paid based on salary schedules that take into account years of experience and education level. The state’s salary schedule provides annual pay bumps through 23 years. Some districts go beyond the 23 years, including one district that goes all the way up to 32.
The money will come out of the state’s contingency fund, costing the state up to $50 million. Though, $50 million “is probably a little more than we need,” said state Sen. Sean Bennett, R-Dorchester.
Originally, the Senate tried to attach the pay bumps to the budget last fall, but the House declined to move on the state’s spending plan because of COVID-19. With a tweak, the Senate’s longest-serving legislator said the bill will do more now to capture the district employees deserving of the additional pay and ensure school districts receive enough money to cover the entire cost of the steps.
“I think the Senate version clearly is much fairer to the school districts and gets them whole, and allows school districts to get things done and does what the Senate wanted to do last year,” said state Sen. Nikki Setzler, D-Lexington.