COLUMBIA, S.C. (FOX Carolina) - State representative Seth Rose says the current education situation stems from years of neglect.
"We have thousands of teachers leaving their jobs every year," he said. "We have thousands of positions that are vacant that can't be filled by quality people."
US News and World Report ranks South Carolina 43rd out of 50 states in education in 2019, and Rose says part of that is because of teacher pay.
"Right now, unless there's a spouse or another stream of income, it's hard for someone to live off of what we're paying," he lamented.
South Carolina's teachers make a mean income of $50,000 a year according to the Southern Regional Education Board, which is below the national average.
"I've spoken to the House leadership, and I believe there's a commitment to do more. There will be a little bit of excess funds this year," Rose said.
This year, the state has plans to add another 5% raise to teacher salaries--a $160 million undertaking. But some say more needs to be done, because the system is already playing catch up.
"We had school districts report that they started school with six hundred and twenty one vacant teaching positions statewide," said Kathy Maness. She's the Executive Director of the Palmetto State Teachers' Association.
They are overwhelmingly in support of the pay raise, and even initially asked for 10%.
"Our young people are graduating, and seeing they can choose and go to different professions--and make more money," she explained.
According to the Center for Education Recruitment, Retention, and Advancement, last year, the state lost around 5000 teachers; simultaneously, they only produced about 1,650 teaching graduates.
Maness says that shortage creates a crisis that affects other ancillary aspects of the learning experience too.
"They're just making these class sizes larger, and it's harder and harder for these children to learn when there are 30-35 kids in a classroom," she explained.
She says 5% is a great first step. But they'll continue to advocate for more.