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S.C. education headed in the wrong direction: students protest for cutting programs amid teacher shortage

South Carolina – For a long time, South Carolina has been struggling to keep enough teachers, and this problem got even worse when COVID-19 hit. More teachers started quitting their jobs during the pandemic, making a tough situation even tougher.

Students held a silent protest at South Carolina State University as the university’s board of trustees consider eliminating academic programs

Even though the state tried to fix this by offering higher salaries and other perks to make teaching more appealing, it’s still hard to keep and attract new teachers. These efforts helped a little but didn’t really get to the heart of the problem, showing that bigger changes are needed to make sure schools have all the teachers they need.

Enrolment crisis in schools across South Carolina

Now, a few years after the pandemic was at its worst, South Carolina’s schools are facing a new problem: not as many students are enrolling. This drop in students is making things even more complicated, especially with the ongoing shortage of teachers. Schools might have to stop offering some programs because there aren’t enough students, which could make being a teacher there less appealing and hurt the quality of education.

Students protest as school considers eliminating programs

Last week, student organizations held a silent protest at South Carolina State University as the university’s board of trustees consider eliminating academic programs at the university. Students on campus were concerned as this topic was brought up by the university’s Board of Trustees last month.

In December, the South Carolina State board of trustees broached the topic of erasing bachelor’s degrees in history, art education, social studies, special education, and professional land surveying. The board cited low enrollment rates for those majors as their main reason.

“This allows S.C. State to efficiently devote resources to programs with the highest market demand,” Sam Watson, university spokesman, said in a Dec. 6 statement, as reported by The Post and Courier.

They expected the board to take it up again at its meeting Wednesday, but that discussion never happened. The board decided to cancel the meeting because of the students’ protest.

“When I heard that these programs, six programs, were on the verge of getting eliminated, I knew in my spirit that I had to do something,” said Adriana Perez, the president of The Student South Carolina Education Association. “Even if they weren’t gonna affect my students or my future, I was technically a middle level education major in November with a concentration in English and social studies and I changed my major as soon as I found out because social studies was on the verge of getting cut as well. I didn’t know where that was going to put me, and I needed to be secure.”

South Carolina State’s Department of Social Sciences released a memo stating their opposition to cutting the majors.

“Starving the humanities drifts the university towards becoming a vocational school, particularly inappropriate for… South Carolina’s only public four-year HBCU.” The memo argued that “no institution can reasonably “be” called a ‘university’ without a history major.”

Plans to reduce education programs in South Carolina are happening at a time when fewer teachers are coming out of the state’s colleges. Currently, only about 17% of newly hired teachers have degrees from universities in South Carolina.

As the 2023-24 school year began, public schools throughout the state were short of more than 1,600 teachers. This shortage included 288 positions in special education, as reported by the Center for Educator Recruitment, Retention, and Advancement.

School districts’ efforts in combating teacher shortage

As South Carolina is tackling its teacher shortage, a recently announced program called TeachFlorence1, aims at those with a Bachelor’s degree and a desire to switch careers into education. This initiative requires participants to have a minimum GPA and pass the Praxis test.

Once accepted, individuals commit to three years of teaching in the district, receiving training and completing courses at Clemson University to ensure they’re equipped for the job. This approach focuses on not just hiring teachers but making sure they stay, addressing a national issue of teacher retention.

Florence 1 district is the third in South Carolina to start TeachFlorence1, with the program launching this summer. Despite its newness, it’s drawn interest from 25 applicants for 27 open positions. However, joining the program involves initial costs for application and background checks, with further fees taken from paychecks but reduced by district scholarships to lessen the financial impact.

TeachFlorence1 is seen as a critical step in solving the teacher shortage and retention problem, ensuring classrooms have committed, well-prepared teachers for the benefit of all students.

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