Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Watch: Today's press conference on educators' salaries

Thanks to the South Carolina Education Association for the links to this pair of videos!

This is brilliant, and I'm hopeful that all 19 of my readers will forward this blog link far, far, far and wide, wide, wide to friends, family, neighbors, co-workers, long-lost cousins, brand-new acquaintances and people you encounter at gas stations, convenience stores and the Piggly Wiggly.

Remember: When educators organize, educators and their students win.

Patrick Hayes and Lindsey Egloff with Harry Ott and Jackie Hicks, Part 1.

Patrick Hayes and Lindsey Egloff with Harry Ott and Jackie Hicks, Part 2.

Far and wide, friends and neighbors. Spread the word.

Hicks: Where would state scores be without NBC teachers?

This week's edition of the Free Times of Columbia takes up the topic of national board certification and the stipends paid to educators who earn that credential.

It's a topic of discussion again because, just as we've seen every year for the past six or eight years, lawmakers looking for more ways to undermine and dismantle public education are trying to eliminate those stipends.

I have to give tremendous credit to the Free Times for covering the issue. The state's major newspapers, ahem, seem to have a hard time grasping and giving coverage to the matter.

To offer a little general background, the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards has been around since the mid-1980s, thanks to an effort begun in those days to improve educator quality. Great goal, right?

So the board created a credential -- a certificate -- that required a pretty labor-intensive process to earn. Simply applying costs a chunk of money, two or three thousand dollars or more. It's a three-year process. It requires a ton of research, writing and documentation, even a process of filming an educator's work in the classroom.

And the whole thing is peer-reviewed.

Which makes it completely worth the additional funds that South Carolina's lawmakers chose to invest back in the late 1990s -- hey, that was while Governor Jim Hodges and Superintendent Inez Tenenbaum were our leaders -- in the form of grants to cover the application costs and stipends paid to successful candidates.

Now, here we are:

State coffers may be booming thanks to a rebounding economy, but some teachers across South Carolina could lose out because of proposed cuts put forward by the House Ways and Means Committee.

Last week, the committee voted to halt the funding for at least a year of an annual supplement paid out to public K-12 educators who have successfully completed a grueling, three-year National Board Certification process.

Teachers already enrolled in the program wouldn’t see their supplements end, but new teachers who want to attempt certification would not be allowed to receive the money.

That supplement, doled out in $7,500 and $10,000 annual bumps to some of the top teachers in the state, costs $68 million a year. There’s no projection available for how much more it would cost to add newly board-certified teachers to the program.

Keeping new enrollees from benefiting from their increased credentials comes as the Ways and Means Committee voted for a budget that was nearly $1 billion higher than the last fiscal year’s budget, thanks to increased tax revenue collections.

S.C. Superintendent of Education Mick Zais and some legislators, such as House Education Committee chairman Phil Owens (R-Easley), don’t believe that it makes economic sense to continue the program. Zais’ office, supported by several legislators, contends that there is no direct correlation between the millions of dollars paid in national board supplements and student achievement increases.

In short: no bang, big bucks.

Owens said that he would like to see the $68 million redirected back into baseline student funding, so that all the teachers across the state could benefit “and not just the ones whose lives allow them to go through the [certification] process.”

Owens argued that in South Carolina’s “current economic state” it doesn’t make sense to keep spending money in this manner. He also said that South Carolina’s teacher pay is $300 higher than the Southeastern average.

Let's pause and unpack that last little nugget.

So the information being offered to the media is that the average teacher salary in South Carolina is $300 higher than the average teacher salary across all the states in the Southeast. That's impressive -- is it, really? -- until you take it apart and look at the numbers.

In South Carolina, educators who hold certain jobs and credentials get stipends -- additional amounts of money, above the base contract salary, that reflect the additional roles and responsibilities they accept. Coaches and band directors, for example, get stipends. Some student group advisors, like student newspaper advisors, also get stipends. And our national board certified teachers receive stipends.

I don't know if this is still funded, but at one time, teacher specialists -- master teachers who were hired to travel across various regions of the state, "coaching" teachers in consistently low-performing, high-priority schools -- were paid great "bonuses" equal to half of their base contract salary. (Which, I thought, brought them much closer to what educators in South Carolina should be paid.)

When calculating the "average" salary of teachers in South Carolina, our leaders pack into the formula all of those stipends and bonuses on top of the base contract salary.

What's the base contract salary? That's the dollar figure established by the state of South Carolina in its salary schedule for teachers who hold bachelor's degrees, master's degrees and doctorates, or master's degree plus so many graduate hours, etc. The salary schedule assigns dollar figures to these categories at each "step" of the salary schedule -- I think there are 22 steps -- and these "steps" are supposed to correlate to an educator's years of experience (up to the top step, and then you just stay on that step until you retire).

In an honest world, the state's average teacher salary would include only those dollars paid to teachers as base contract salary. But we don't live in an honest world; we live in South Carolina, where our lawmakers throw in everything plus the kitchen sink -- all the local salary supplements, all the stipends, all the bonuses, every jot and tittle they can pack into the bag.

Which means, friends and neighbors, that the resulting figure is waaaaay inflated beyond a real average teacher salary in our state. When anyone tells you that our average teacher salary is $300 higher than the Southeastern average, back them up and ask how South Carolina fares in that ranking when you take out all the condiments and fixin's. You might find that the sumptuous barbecue dinner they're trying to sell you is little more than a dry chicken leg and a hush puppy. Better to know that up front.

Currently, the state spends $1,880 on each student annually, despite state law requiring a number closer to $2,700. The committee’s budget plan would increase that amount to close to $2,100. The Legislature would have to vote in a special law, called a proviso, to circumvent the higher amount; it has consistently done so in recent years.

Owens, in lock step with Zais,

Well, that tells us a lot, right there...

Owens, in lock step with Zais, has argued that a better way to reward good teaching is to implement “pay for performance” raises open to all teachers.

Democrats in the House have pledged to fight the issue on the floor. And if it should get to the Senate, Owens should expect an even chillier reception.

Sen. John Courson (R-Columbia) chairs the Senate Education Committee and has already vowed to fight against dropping the annual supplement.

“We are currently number three nationally in the number of National Board certified teachers,” said Courson, who sees the supplement as an integral piece of the state’s economic future.

And thank God for that. It's nice to say we're third in the nation for some good reason, isn't it? Usually, it's some rotten ranking, like third in the nation in cardiac incidents related to pork fat.

Courson worries that if the supplement disappears, there would be an exodus of some of the state’s best-prepared teachers for greener economic pastures.

You think? North Carolina pays national board certified teachers a 12 percent differential above the bachelor's degree; it only pays a 10 percent differential above the bachelor's degree for teachers with master's degrees. If I were one of those teachers in any one of our counties bordering North Carolina, I bet I'd be keeping an eye on opportunities across the border.

Jackie B. Hicks, president of the S.C. Education Association, wonders how the Legislature paid for the supplements during the lean times of the Great Recession, but now wants to cut them.

Excellent question. We found the money when times were bad, so why cut off the stipends now, when our state is "surging"?

We are "surging," aren't we? I mean, I heard Governor Nikki Haley say we were "surging," so I figured that meant we were well on the road to recovery. Apparently, the Obama administration's economic policies are working overtime for South Carolina, so good that we're "surging." At least, that's what Haley said. "Surging."

Hicks responded tersely to sallies by Zais and Owens that there’s not been direct student improvement due to the money spent on the certification supplements with a question.

“Where would South Carolina’s scores be without them?” she asks.

Hicks, while not satisfied with the state’s standardized testing scores and national rankings, said she thought they would be lower without the teachers that have gone through the certification process. She also wonders how pay-for-performance would work for special education teachers working with some of the most seriously affected student populations, as some of those students have little realistic chance of meeting grade-level expectations.

Spoken like someone with some years of experience in South Carolina's public school classrooms.

And what a powerful final summation from the Free Times editors:

Crystal ball: Cutting National Board supplements might make some fiscal sense, but it makes no political sense. One Republican representative who supports cutting the money said he knew it was going nowhere in the current political and economic climate. That being said, observers are wondering about the future of K-12 education in the state when education is so clearly undervalued by so many state leaders.

Read that again: "when education is so clearly undervalued by so many state leaders."

Ain't that the truth.

Press conference brings attention to educator salaries

When was the last time you saw The State and the Charleston Post & Courier publish stories about restoring educator salaries, on the same day?

Both are trailing the Charleston City Paper by a day, but better late than never. Nothing beats a trend, and news of this one may reach the Upstate by this evening or tomorrow.

The spark for this feeding frenzy by the media is a press conference held just a couple of hours ago at the State House, featuring fourth-grader teacher Patrick Hayes of Charleston. Hayes initiated the online petition -- at the advice of his wife, we've now learned -- in frustration at having his salary frozen for four years. Hayes previously taught in California, where he was a member of an educators union, and where educators are accustomed to organizing in support of their interests.

Thanks to that experience, Hayes is a motivated fellow.

Hayes used a fellow teacher, Lindsey Egloft, as an example. Egloft said she makes $36,679 teaching fifth grade at Drayton Hall Elementary. According to the salary schedule or her district -- given the credits she has earned in a Master’s degree program -- Egloft said she should be making $38,050.

Next year, with lawmakers’ 2 percent raise, Egloft said she would be making $37,360.
“I’m going to stop talking about this issue when I’m being paid the salary I was promised when I took the job,” Hayes said.

A pretty pithy summary of the press conference, according to non-media sources who were there. Still, it's coverage. Maybe a later iteration will offer more detail of the dialogue between Hayes and Egloft.

The Post & Courier published a bit more background in its report:

His online petition, Restore Teacher Salaries, has amassed nearly 7,000 signatures since he posted it about a month ago, and his goal is to reach 20,000.

"There's a huge well of resentment about the way teachers have taken the brunt of the state's mismanaged finances," Hayes said.

South Carolina has seen a 24.1 percent drop in per-pupil spending from 2008 to 2012, which is the biggest decrease of any state, according to the Washington-based Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

Hayes, a married father of two, isn't one of the district's well-known teacher leaders, but he stays informed on local and statewide issues.

When he heard about the governor's "inflammatory" budget proposal -- which would decrease education funding by nearly $80 million despite a statewide surplus -- he said he felt compelled to act.

Hayes wrote emails to lawmakers and encouraged his co-workers to do the same, and his wife suggested an online petition. He told fewer than 100 people about it, but support grew fast.

"It's the nature of the cuts we've seen the last few years," Hayes said.

Lawmakers have slashed the funds that go to school districts, and they've given local education officials permission to ignore the salary schedule that dictates what teachers are supposed to be paid.

In Charleston, that has meant teachers haven't had a cost-of-living adjustment in three years or a step increase for additional experience in two years.

"It's the only career advancement we have unless we leave teaching and become administrators," Hayes said. "It's not a lot of money, but it's something that's going to happen every year and makes life a little easier."

Charleston County Superintendent Nancy McGinley has said giving teachers the pay they deserve is her No. 1 budget priority, and Hayes said some teachers plan to focus their advocacy on the local school board.

Hayes knows that part of the challenge is raising awareness, and he said a lot will have been accomplished if teachers' salaries can be restored in one year.

"It will take a combination of the state spending more money and districts prioritizing it," he said. "Most people have no idea that this has been going on, but when they hear about it, they want to help."

Educators need full restoration of salaries before bonuses

This is embarrassing.

A salary is compensation for work. A bonus is a reward.

For four years, South Carolina's electeds have frozen -- withheld -- restricted -- effectively cut educators' salaries. Educators went on working, prices went on rising, cost of living went on growing, so the real value of educators' pay went on shrinking.

Now, despite South Carolina's uber-regressive tax policies and thanks to deep budget cuts in recent years, it is enjoying a windfall revenue surplus of nearly a billion dollars.

Time to restore those frozen salaries, right?

Sure, that would be logical, so that wouldn't be our lawmakers' first instinct. In South Carolina, we finally come around to doing what's logical, rational and good a century or two after everyone else. We're not what you call "early adopters" of good ideas. Bad ideas, on the other hand, get us out of bed in the morning before the roosters.

That is the only thing that explains today's news that a proposal to give state workers and educators a one-percent "bonus" has floated to the top of the pool.

House Minority Leader Harry Ott says he will try to push through a 1 percent bonus for state workers and teachers in the state budget.

Harry Ott's a good guy. His intent is noble: Get a few more dollars in the pockets of people who are struggling and who are working hard for South Carolina.

But they don't need itty-bitty one-time bonuses. They need their salaries to be restored, four years' worth of withheld step-increases, tout suite. If the post office can't handle the load, UPS delivers.

Ott said the money would come from the state’s reserve funds, meaning it would be one-time money and not carry over to next year. State employees will have to pay an extra 4.6 percent for their health insurance and will most likely have to pay an additional 1 percent toward the state retirement fund.

Here we have a dictionary definition of highway robbery: Those with power and resources rob those without power and resources of all they're worth, for fictitious reasons such as "We can't afford to do it ourselves." Take this out of the legislative chamber and put the same action in the intersection of Gervais and Main streets, and someone would call the police department to come and make some arrests. But since it's occurring inside the legislative chambers, it's legal.

“I believe they deserve (a bonus),” Ott said.

Me, too. Anyone who's spent a week in a public school classroom agrees that educators deserve a bonus. But before we discuss a bonus, they deserve to have their salaries restored -- that's four years' worth of step-increases, joyfully accepted in cash, cashier's check or money order.

I doubt that a one-time, one-percent bonus is equal to four years' worth of withheld step increases.

State workers and teachers would receive a 2 percent raise under a spending plan approved last week by the House Ways and Means Committee. But Ott said he was worried the 2 percent raise would not be enough to cover the increases in health insurance and retirement contributions. Ott said an extra 1 percent bonus would cost the state about $14 million just for state employees. It was unclear how much money would be required to give teachers a bonus.

State Rep. Brian White, R-Anderson and chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, said he has not decided if he will support Ott’s bonus plan. But he was skeptical of how the state would pay for it.

“Where are you going to get the money?” White said. “Reserve accounts are for reserves.”

Funny that the chair of House Ways and Means should ask where lawmakers should find necessary funding for its obligations and institutions. I consulted the ultimate authority on such matters -- the South Carolina Constitution -- and discovered the answer there in Article III:

SECTION 15. Bills for revenue; other bills.

Bills for raising revenue shall originate in the House of Representatives, but may be altered, amended or rejected by the Senate; all other Bills may originate in either house, and may be amended, altered or rejected by the other.

What tremendous luck! The men and women who are looking for ways to restore state workers' and educators' salaries are precisely the men and women who are empowered by the state Constitution to file bills for raising revenue.

Whew. I was worried there for a minute, thinking that the Constitution might only empower the city council of Stone Mountain, Georgia, to raise the necessary revenues to pay for South Carolina's essential obligations and institutions -- because, as we all know, the city council of Stone Mountain, Georgia, has absolutely no interest in helping raise revenues to pay for South Carolina's needs -- but the authors of our Constitution used great wisdom to put that power squarely in the hands of our General Assembly.

Sounds like this can be resolved pretty quickly, then. All we need is for members of the House to introduce legislation that restores those salaries, and legislation to raise the revenue necessary to do it, then send both bills over to the Senate for its approval. Done and done.

Okeydoke, who's going to do it?

Kelly: "Workers are better off with unions than without them"

So Patrick Hayes of Charleston, thanks to having been a member of an educators union in California, knew that organized citizens can be effective at guiding their own destinies.

And veteran firefighter MichaelAnthony Parrotta of Myrtle Beach, president of the state firefighters association, pointed out that South Carolina is home to tens of thousands of unionized workers already, working daily to keep the state's economy afloat and to preserve, protect and improve our quality of life.

More than a week ago, editorialist Barbara Kelly of Savannah published a note in Bluffton Today saying similar things and offering some historical context for the benefit of readers. Her point is spelled out in the headline: "Labor unions help workers know their rights."

A labor union is an organization established by and for workers to pursue collective workplace goals such as wages, benefits, and workplace rules.

Because of labor unions the whole society has benefited — hours of work per week, vacations, sick days, rules for safety and health of workers. These benefits were not gained through free market generosity but through years of work and sacrifice by those who wanted workers to have a say in their day-to-day life. Workers vote about whether or not they want to be in a union and they elect their representatives.

So why do some hate unions so much? They are not always perfect, but neither are most organizations. But they provide power to their members that those people could not gain as individuals.

In 1619, North America had its first labor uprising. Polish craftsmen who produced glass, pitch, and tar for the Jamestown Colony went on strike because they had no voting rights. They were given rights and went back to work.

In 1884 the Federation of Organized Trade (forerunner of the AFL) said that eight hours shall constitute a legal work day.

In March of 1911, 147 people, mostly women and young girls, died when the top three floors of a 10-story New York building caught fire. (The Triangle Shirtwaist Fire) These workers would probably have lived if rules for workplace safety had been in place.

In 1955, the AFL-CIO merged.

Those are just a few of the important dates for the labor movement in this country.

Almost none of the benefits that workers expect today happened by accident. The idea that companies will take care of workers when there are no rules is a chance workers shouldn’t have to take. Also, a level of job protection is another benefit of unions. One can’t be fired on a whim, but can be terminated only for good cause.

In 1938, the Fair Wages and Hours Act set a 40-hour work week and banned child labor. I doubt this would have happened without unions.

In a “right-to-work” state, such as South Carolina, membership in a union and payment of dues can’t be a condition of employment. A map of these states includes all of the south and a part of the midwest and west. The average worker in these states earns about $5,000 less than workers in other states. So are these really just right to work for less states?

I did a quick comparison of teacher salaries in these states as compared to other states. Both beginning salaries and average salaries were less in most right-to-work states, compared to states that allow unions. But that is only one of the benefits for teachers. Union contracts also negotiate for things such as class size, a free lunch time, health benefits, planning time, and assessment. For other workers, they can negotiate for things that are relevant to their workplaces and conditions. Pension benefits may also be negotiated.

In the end, workers are better off with unions than without them. But they have a choice. And many of the right-to-work states have very high unemployment and are no more attractive to companies than other states. So this hatred and demonizing of unions makes no sense.

It seems like just another one of those political arguments that doesn’t really benefit people. Another talking point. Another campaign slogan.

Unionized employees are our working neighbors, not demons

Patrick Hayes, who initiated the online petition to restore educators' salaries, told the Charleston City Paper that he previously taught in California:

Hayes previously taught in California, which allows teachers to join unions. In South Carolina, teachers are barred from collective bargaining.

Perhaps because of Hayes's experience as a union member, he knew that citizens have rights, and that citizens who organize themselves in large numbers can exercise those rights to great effect.

His commentary reminded me of the opinion-editorial in Sunday's The State by MichaelAnthony Parrotta, a 25-year firefighter in Myrtle Beach and president of the South Carolina Professional Fire Fighters Association.

As Parrotta points out, unions exist in South Carolina, and union members go a long way toward improving life for the rest of our citizens.

I am a firefighter in South Carolina. I respond when the alarm goes off without the slightest hesitation, just like the men and women who work alongside me. Our job is to save lives and property. We do that job with pride. We are deeply committed to keeping our neighbors and communities safe, because we are proud citizens of the great state of South Carolina.

We are also union members.

In her State of the State address, Gov. Nikki Haley proclaimed my fellow firefighters and paramedics and I “are not needed, not wanted and not welcome in the state of South Carolina.”

Her rhetoric made it sound like she was talking about truly evil people. Or an angry invading force. Instead of me and tens of thousands of other hard-working citizens.

Does she really want to deny all of us a voice in our work lives, or drive us out of South Carolina?

That’s a lot of taxpayers, a lot of moms and dads, a lot of Little League coaches. Police officers, dock workers, mail carriers, paper mill workers, utility workers, UPS drivers and more, who work long, tough hours and help keep our state’s economy humming along, are also union members.

What does Gov. Haley have against us?

We are employed here and pay our taxes here. We live middle-class lives. We own houses, keep our yards up and spend money in the state we call home.

Maybe Gov. Haley doesn’t like that our membership in our unions allows us to advocate for such things as better equipment to make sure we can respond effectively and fast.

Maybe the governor doesn’t like that we are able to earn a living that gives us and our families a decent life and keeps us off public assistance.

Or maybe she is listening to the same politicians in Washington who are failing our country by doing the bidding of big corporations — the ones with headquarters well outside of our state that profit mightily from the hard work of South Carolinians.

In her address, Gov. Haley said the state of the state is “surging.” Really? Where’s it surging to? Our state’s unemployment rate is higher than the national average. Our citizens are among the lowest paid in the nation.

We know that Wall Street profits have been surging in the past few years. But have you been surging? Are your wages surging? What about your home values?

Gov. Haley is not the only extremist politician pointing fingers at people who work for a living as the evil ones. Her agenda looks like it was written by national corporate lobby groups that just can’t seem to get enough profit and power, and don’t care a whit about the good people of South Carolina.

Firefighting is not the career to choose if you seek fame and fortune. If that’s what you’re looking for, you might try politics. We often refer to fire fighting as “the calling,” because most of us from an early age feel a call to serve our communities. It is tough but rewarding work. And for too many of my colleagues, exposing our bodies to dangerous, traumatic and physically demanding situations and carcinogenic fumes means our career won’t be a long one.

It’s time to stop treating the employees who provide our public services and those who keep our economy going as though we’re selfish demons. We are your neighbors. We go to work every day, just like you. We care about this state and its citizens.

We are not corporations with headquarters in other states or other countries that answer to profit-hungry shareholders on Wall Street. We are South Carolinians who have just as much of a right to have a voice in the workplace and a say in our futures as the folks writing Gov. Haley’s speeches.

You know, South Carolina's lawmakers make a big deal often of criticizing the "status quo." But the status quo is that South Carolina is a "right-to-work-for-less" state that prohibits collective bargaining. Maybe one big step away from the status quo might be to repeal both of those laws, and see what happens.

One thing's for sure: We couldn't do any worse than we've been doing.

Thanks, Mr. Parrotta, for what you and your colleagues do daily to keep South Carolinians safe and to protect our property.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

When educators organize, educators and students win.

I'm a great believer in organizing.

I believe that when educators organize, educators and their students win.

Even better, when educators and parents organize together, nothing stops them from achieving their mutual goals, because even in a state like South Carolina -- where the legislature has total control of everything -- what motivates lawmakers is motivated, organized voters.

So I'm so proud to see an educator -- a fourth-grade teacher in Charleston named Patrick Hayes -- stepping up to help organize educators, parents and others behind a single, simple message: To use the windfall revenue surplus to restore educators' salaries.

Today's Charleston City Paper tells what motivated Hayes:

"I was shown a piece of paper when I took this job that showed how much money I was going to make in 2012, and I made my plans around that," Hayes says. While state legislators hash out the budget for the fiscal year that begins in July, Hayes still has a mortgage to pay. In the spring of 2010, as Charleston County schools forced teachers to take unpaid furlough days and the state legislature debated whether to cancel its requirement for the "step increases," as the annual raises have been called, Hayes was about to become the father of a baby girl. To plug a hole in the family budget, he took on two extra jobs, working as an in-home tutor and helping to organize a summer camp at the school.

And what suggested to Hayes that stepping up and organizing educators works?


"It's almost embarrassing the amount we're looking for here," he says. "It's embarrassing that we have to go out and fight for this."

Hayes previously taught in California, which allows teachers to join unions. In South Carolina, teachers are barred from collective bargaining. "With the salary, the tradition is I just sit back and wait and see what they hand me," he says.

We cannot change our history, but we can learn from it and change our future.

Where we have come from doesn't have to be where we remain, or where we should go.

All it takes to change is to organize.

So, go here. Sign the petition. And say something.

Need inspiration?

Need help?

Need a reason?

About seven thousand have already volunteered to help you. Take a look:

Matthew Wilt Feb 27, 2012 Sumter, SC
But we're only babysitters, right?

Brian Davis Feb 27, 2012 Pamplico, SC
We need to be paid for all the work that we do...We do way more than teach to those who think we do nothing!!!!

Patsy Rankin Feb 27, 2012 Seneca, SC
Teachers are the people who shape America's future. We pour ourselves into students and inspire them to be great! Pay teachers what they deserve.

Elizabeth Humphrey Feb 27, 2012 ORANGEBURG, SC
I am a young teacher, and I am not getting paid enough to teach my Science class. My materials are becoming scarce. Also, if our pay continue to decline, then that will leave our classrooms with 35 students plus, and a higher drop-our rate because we will not be able to meet the needs of our students one-on-one. Please unfreeze our salaries, because we are the ones that make a difference as we teach, touch, and inspire our future visionaries.

Bonnie Friedman Feb 27, 2012 Mount Pleasant, SC
We need to pay teachers what they deserve. They are teaching and caring for our future! Without good teachers SC will stay in the bottom for education!

Erin Campbell Feb 27, 2012 Marion, SC
Please honor our salaries. I have been teaching for 4 years and struggle to take care of my son. I only make $28,000/year. I could work retail and make more money. I could substitute teach up north and make more money. South Carolina's education is going to start suffering and we already don't have a good reputation.

Carolyn Mayton Feb 27, 2012 Rock Hill, SC
I will support our teachers always! God Bless them and our children. I have a son who graduated last June and a daughter who is a Junior this year.

Tricia Wells Feb 27, 2012 Gilbert, SC
I support the SCEA's efforts to rebuild and restore teachers' salaries.

We're not alone. Go here. Sign the petition. Say something.

Brandy Eubanks Feb 27, 2012 Ladson, SC
Students can't be put first if you put teachers last.

Michele Peacock Feb 27, 2012 Rock Hill, SC
I won't be voting for Haley next go round either.

Olga Pickering Burke Feb 27, 2012 Charleston, SC
Our teaches deserve more pay. Our children deserve great teaches. Gov, Haley you understand our needs.

Lisa Hawkins Feb 27, 2012 Florence, SC
Use returning revenues to honor our state's commitment to fully fund our schools.

Robert Shank Feb 27, 2012 Georgetown, SC
Teachers need raises now, we are falling behind every day further and further.

Mary Ingrassia Feb 27, 2012 Saint Helena Island, SC
As a former public school teacher I can't imagine Ms. Haley's outrageous attitude regarding the SC teachers. They deserve to have their salaries raised! Hers should be cut!

Sarah Johnson Feb 27, 2012 Mt. Pleasant, SC
Invest in our schools, our teachers, our children - not in Teach for America, Common Core, and punitive high-stakes standardized testing.

Debbie Murphy Feb 27, 2012 Prosperity, SC
Please not I have taught for 31 years in TN and SC last years salary was my lowest for 9 years. I think this is a sad fact for the BUSINESS of education.

Go here. Sign the petition. Say something.

Nancy Bradshaw Feb 27, 2012 Irmo, SC
Has your operating funds been cut by 24%? Are you being paid the amount listed in your contract? Why are we different?

Monica Y. Williams Feb 27, 2012 Camden, SC
Please give teachers the step increase this year which is 2012. We haven't had a raise in 3 or 4 years and everything else is going up. Gas is going up, grocery prices are going up, and daycare prices are going up. Please help teachers live a life that is fit for a public servant!

Tamayu Wiles Feb 27, 2012 Ridgewood, NY
Being one of the most important jobs teachers help shape what our world is to be for the next generation, a top salary is indicative of that work, a low salary is not! A happy teacher is a happy student

Melissa Sadek Feb 27, 2012 Blythewood, SC
Teachers deserve more than we could ever give them. Have you seen the children they have to deal.with on a daily basis! !!

Brenda Roy Feb 27, 2012 Columbia, SC
Restore SC schools and stop the privatization of our public schools.

Tim Moore Feb 26, 2012 Andrews, SC
Honor your promise

Willette H Williams Feb 26, 2012 Denmark, SC
Restore retired teachers' salaries also. Retired teachers are being discriminated against yet we are paying retirement from our wages and still frozen with retirement pay. Not right. We should not be penalized because we are retired.

Harriett Davis Feb 26, 2012 Orangeburg, SC
For the last four years, we, teachers, have continued to do an exemplary job in the classroom despite our pay. We have been overlooked for far too long. We deserve a raise for the extraordinary jobs we do despite our pay.

Go here. Sign the petition. Say something.

Stephanie Bowling Feb 26, 2012 Blythewood, SC
Do we value our children's teachers or not? Would the state cut the pay of their doctors and dentists if those were state jobs? I don't think so. Teachers are just as important, if not more, in the lives of children.

Jean Bowers Feb 26, 2012 Greenwood, SC
Teachers give their all to the good the bad and the ugly, and their parents. They deserve a raise and more respect.

Cynthia Layton Feb 26, 2012 Orangeburg, SC
Teachers put in more hours than most people with their job. It is very difficult for them to raise a family and pay bills with what they make. Without teachers you would not have politicans, doctors or lawyers who make alot more than teachers. Please support education and give teachers a well deserved raise.

Debra A Cherubini Feb 26, 2012 Chapin, SC
SC has cut more from education than any other state! WOW. While we are at the bottom of the states when it comes to getting a good education. Making more cuts makes no sense!!

Beverly B. Ramsey Feb 26, 2012 Charleston, SC
Teachers put in more hours than most people with their job. Please give them what they deserve and you will keep the qualified teachers. It is very difficult for them to raise a family and pay bills with what they make. Without teachers you would not have politicans, doctors or engineers who make alot more than teachers. That is not right.

Michael Eippert Feb 26, 2012 charleston, SC
I have 2 dedicated teachers in my family and they're both grossly underpaid for the amount of work that they do.

Rebecca Lauder Feb 26, 2012 Greenville, SC
The children of SC are more important than most of the issues our legislators have chosen to debate! Please be a responsible representative and speak for our children!

Kayla Griffith Feb 26, 2012 Orangeburg, SC
Teaching is on of the only jobs you plan on going into without ever getting a raise. If this happened in the business world people would quit.

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T. Clanton Feb 26, 2012 Catawba, SC
Our dedicated South Carolina teachers should be rewarded by giving them decent salaries they deserve. The lies and deceit the Government continues to practice will discourage future students from perusing teaching degrees. Give them what they are promised and what they deserve!

Renee Cogburn Feb 26, 2012 Blythewood, SC
For my sister-in-law, Cassie Cogburn and all other teachers out there. No one in a working position of any kind could have made it without a teacher!!!

Benjamin Edge Feb 26, 2012 Central, SC
Teachers are more important than corporate tax cuts

Kathy Dezern Feb 26, 2012 Seneca, SC
Why has South Carolina always put education in last place on it's list of priorities? We have the most ill educated population in the Nation and it shows in levels of income, crime, teen pregnancy you name it and we are plagued by ills due to lack of education.

Gabrielle Clossman Feb 26, 2012 Bluffton, SC
I am a fourth grade teacher who has had my pay frozen for two years now.

Ghussan Rouse Greene Feb 26, 2012 Orangeburg, SC
Teachers deserve a raise for dealing with the students of today; they are a handful.

Cheryl Fiedorczyk Feb 26, 2012 North Charleston, SC
When the men and women running our state show that they have faith in the educational system of SC, everyone will win. I have worked in other states and never have I seen such a negative attitude toward teachers as that which is displayed here by our government officials, county board of education systems, and the public.

Darlene Swope Feb 26, 2012 Lexington, SC
The future of SC and the USA lies in the education of our youth.

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Robert McManus Feb 26, 2012 Lexington, SC
Put OUR money to use for better performance from our teachers; too many of them have to use their own money to buy supplies that our administration types will not! I Further, cut the administration if that is what is needed to accomplish this!

James A. Stuckey, Jr. Feb 26, 2012 Charleston, SC
Quality education needs to be a top priority, certainly in dumb, illiterate, and poor South Carolina.

Mary Crum Scholtens Feb 26, 2012 Mt. Pleasant, SC
Teaching is one of the few professions where we must pay for our own continuing education in order to renew our license to practice. This alone is reason enough to compensate us fairly for our years of experience and service.

Dr. Gloria D. Winkler Feb 25, 2012 ORANGEBURG, SC
Everyone seems to applaud athletes and the like and forget the ones who actually taught these individuals. Why must teachers suffer financially?

Tomalyn Jamison Feb 25, 2012 West Columbia, SC
Please show that education is a priority in our State by putting the $$ back into it!

Beverly Diane Frierson Feb 25, 2012 Columbia, SC
Let's honor those who are entrusted to teach our children with salaries that make it clear we appreciate professional educators.

Deborah Galloway Feb 25, 2012 Anderson, SC
I have friends with children in the school system. Friends and family members in the school system teaching. I see them by supplies for their student out of their pockets. If they want to see them succeed. Building more schools and employing no more teacher. How will the students get an education? Teacher not getting raises. But trying to help the students.

Amanda Haffenden Feb 25, 2012 Summerville, SC
The children and teachers of SC deserve better. Teachers spend their vacations and evenings working for their students and should be compensated accordingly. If my husband were paid hourly for all the time he spends teaching and preparing for teaching, he would be making approximately $9 an hour. SC can't afford to be last in education. We need to increase salaries to compensate our teachers and to ensure that our children receive the best educations possible.

Katherine M. Blake Feb 25, 2012 Andrews, SC
Apparently, Gov Haley and the legislators forget that it all starts with teachers. NONE of them would be where they are without the dedication of the teachers of the world! They should be compensated accordingly.

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Kristin Sigalas Feb 25, 2012 Summerville, SC
Restore SC teacher's salaries!

Kelly Mitchum Feb 25, 2012 Bamberg, SC
Teachers deserve to be compensated for all they do. Their job is hard enough as it is, so don't make it worse by having more budget cuts or salary freezes. They also need to be able to punish unruly kids so they can teach those willing to learn!!

Loree B. Paschal Feb 25, 2012 Lugoff, SC
Considering the responsibllity given to teachers, I (a retired educator) feel it is almost criminal to withhold money from our teachers. Sometimes a teacher is the only person who calls a child by his/her name during a day. Many bright teachers leave the profession because they have no promise of earned income increases. Cut somewhere else; maybe stipends for legislators travel, etc.

Eileen Sullivan Feb 25, 2012 Cayce, SC
I am a teacher in Lexington 2. We teachers desperately need a raise in order to keep up with the cost of living during these terrible economic times. I have spent a great deal of my own money on school supplies for my students & classroom. Please use returning revenues to raise teacher salaries!

Dottie Baker Feb 25, 2012 Bishopville, SC
Gov. Haley needs to remember her roots! I do sign the petition, gladly

Patti Parker Feb 25, 2012 Greenville, SC
To Governor Haley and our Legislature: Please PROVE that education IS a priority in this state. It is our only hope for the future. Teachers work extremely hard for their students, but are not paid wages that will support a family. If you want to continue having quality teachers, better pay is the way to prevent their talents from going to other professions and industries!

Rhonda Brummel Feb 25, 2012 Bamberg, SC
Gov. Haley I voted for you because I thought you supported ALL educators - I am quickly losing faith in what you say and do

Mike Vaughn Feb 25, 2012 Great Falls, SC
End your assault on education of our children. I will remember your actions on election day.

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Leigh Ann Osborne Feb 24, 2012 Bamberg, SC
Education in SC cannot survive more cuts in funding. Teachers are educated professionals working with the state's most precious resource for the future -our students. Send the message to teachers and students that education is important in SC!

Nichole Yoch Feb 24, 2012 Augusta, GA
I live in GA, but I am a SC educator. Pay us what we are worth. I just completed my Master's degree and my increase in pay does not even cover my student loans. Unacceptable!!! We work hard for our students and we deserve to be justly compensated for it!

Rose Harris Feb 24, 2012 St. Stephen, SC
Restore teacher salaries.

Mary Evelyn Martin Feb 24, 2012 Richmond Hill, GA
I have many teachers in my family in SC and they are living below the poverty line. PLEASE PAY THEM A DECENT WAGE!

Gail Moore Feb 24, 2012 Greenwood, SC
I think we deserve our salary plus all of our National Board Compensation. We work hard to better ourselves as educators. Not only do we work a full time job at our schools but the work comes home with us where we work at night and on weekends for the betterment of our students as well as ourselves.

Kellie Conner Feb 24, 2012 Lake Wylie, SC
The public schools need more funds to better educate our students and teachers need their salaries they were promised.

Why do we continue to punish teachers? It is so unfair. You make their jobs harder, and and cut, cut, cut. My daughter is a wonderful teacher, and can only teach, because her husband has a good paying job. If not, she would have to leave a job she loves, to make more money.

Joetta Balsley Feb 24, 2012 Plymouth, IN
My daughter has been teaching in south Carolina schools for four years. My husband and i have to supplement her income so she can pay a car payment, pay rent and buy groceries and pay a few other bills. There is not enough money in her paycheck tp live

Katie Johns Feb 24, 2012 West Columbia, SC
It's a shame when a professional National Board Certified teacher with 7 years experience in the classroom and a proven record of success cannot support a family of three on her salary.

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Davis Marret Feb 24, 2012 Charleston, SC
This is my 4th year teaching and I make the same as I did my first year!!! This is horrible! Help us please

Jon Crawford Feb 23, 2012 Mt Pleasant, SC
Please honor the daily commitment of SC teachers to their students, our children, and our future. Fugitive corporations do not deserve any more breaks than they already get; teachers need a raise, and legislators should match at least the mid-range of salaries nationwide for qualified instructors in public schools.

Evelyn Anderson Feb 23, 2012 Greenville, SC
If only our State leaders were as dedicated as our teachers...

David L. Rice Feb 23, 2012 Charleston, SC
I can't think of a better way to spend the tax money than in support of education and in particular teachers. Are we as South Carolinians doomed to eternal last place?

Maureen Adkins Feb 23, 2012 Hanahan, SC
Education should be our biggest investment in our future. Although I have no children left in school, I fully support paying my taxes that go to our education system. Give our teachers the raise they deserve.

Peggy Edmunds Feb 23, 2012 Sumter, SC
My husband says I had the only job in America where I was expected to pay for my own supplies. I was a teacher.

Allison Poston Feb 23, 2012 Scranton, SC
You're reading this because someone taught you how. Juss sayin'. :)

Stacey Schmidt Feb 23, 2012 Columbia, SC
Teachers should be some of our highest paid officials. They are preparing our children for the future. Teaching is one of the hardest yet most thankless jobs!

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Megan Spradlin Feb 23, 2012 Mount Pleasant, SC
My mom is first grade teacher and her job is super important. Non only are they educators but teachers are the guardians of our democratic society, and it is their purpose to prepare their students to enter into the society and sustain it.

Rebecca Freeman Feb 23, 2012 Aiken, SC
Return revenues to honor our state's commitment to its teachers and fully fund our schools.

Karen Flowers Feb 23, 2012 Columbia, SC
I was a public school teacher for 30 years and now have worked with teachers for 12 more. My son is a teacher, but I am sure for how long. He cannot afford it. Just because teachers are treated poorly doesn't mean they have to be paid poorly. Please restore the teachers salaries that have been cut over the last few years by using returning revenures.

Joni Carr Feb 23, 2012 Murrells Inlet, SC
Education is the path for a successful future to all South Carolinians. In addition to the doctors, lawyers and "chiefs", the butchers, bakers and "candle stick makers" need a high quality education to survive. You KNOW that we get what we pay for, so RAISE the amount of taxation to pay teachers more competitive wages to keep them in SC with our children and grandchildren!!

Eleanor K Linder Feb 23, 2012 Greenville, SC
Please help our children and grandchildren. They deserve good, better paid teachers.

Karen K Wehman Feb 23, 2012 Columbia, SC
How can we continue to cut education funds whe we still rank 47th , or very near the bottom, in education?

Georgia Arnold Feb 23, 2012 Orangeburg, SC
I ask that salaries be restored to teachers and funding to schools.

Alan Gramet Feb 22, 2012 Pawleys Island, SC
It is deplorable the way this state values education! How do yo expect to draw additional industry to this state with sub standard education. DO NOT CUT any additional funds! We should be allocating more not less

Marilyn M. Davis Feb 22, 2012 Charleston, SC
I am in full favor of the state reinstating raises for teachers. I bet if the Governor was told that she could not get a raise she deserved she wouldn't be happy about it. Teachers in this state already make less than their counterparts in other states. I am sad to say that I cheered when Ms Haley won the governorship, I thought that she would be an advocate for educators. Boy was I wrong!!! She wants to keep slave labor alive and well in SC. Too bad we went from good ol boy, to bad ole girl. So sad. Can't wait for election time. We need to correct this wrong. SC is finally making headway in improving education levels and it is thanks to its teachers. How about giving more than a pat on the back for a change.

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JAMES W. GARRICK, JR. Feb 22, 2012 Greenville, SC
Even my evangelical fundamentalist Southern Baptist brother voted against SC's governor and, obviously by now to thinkers, he was right again. More embarrassment for dear sad SC.

Judy Powell Feb 22, 2012 West Columbia, SC
If you want to see the quality of teachers decline, beat them down by diminishing their pay. Teaching is so very much more demanding than most people realize. The best and the brightest are so talented that they could easily succeed at careers that pay much higher salaries than teaching. So if you want to skim the best off the top and take second and third tier quality teachers, be prepared to pay the cost in the quality of instruction that students receive. You have cut >20% from education and now have a billion dollar surplus in the budget. I dare those in power who cast a vote that has such far-reaching effects to spend a week in a classroom, teaching standards, maintaining discipline, being a counselor, mentor, parent, encourager, etc. See how much you think you should earn. We truly have our priorities misaligned in this state. I am a retired educator who loved every position I ever held. I made a difference. I hope and pray that you restore teacher salaries before the great ones buckle under the decisions that reflect a lack of appreciation and less money.

Connie Gecy Feb 22, 2012 Simpsonville, SC
Teachers deserve so much more than they are paid. I hope you sign this and pass it on to others. Teaching is a difficult job and getting harder every year!

Karen Rhodes Feb 22, 2012 Florence, SC
We need to take care of our teachers!

Thomas Powell Feb 22, 2012 CHESNEE, SC
With what all the teachers have to do these days they deserve every penny you could give them. How do you expect to educate our children if you do not support our teachers?

Marian Martin Feb 22, 2012 James Island, SC
I am making the same salary I made 6 years ago but paying higher prices. I can't afford to pay my family's medical and dental bills. You people in government jobs don't care about public school servants. You ought to be ashamed of yourselves.

Anne T. Heles Feb 22, 2012 Port Royal, SC
As a retired teacher I agree whole heartedly that the teacher's salaries to be be restored. Visit classrooms and see what goes on.

Emily Knight Feb 22, 2012 Florence, SC
As someone new to the teaching profession (3 years) I am still hopeful that I can make a difference in students' lives and help them succeed in school and in life. It his hard to keep this hope, though, wondering if I will ever get paid more than 29K a year (what I made my 1st year of teaching.) Some day, I would like to buy a house, have a family, and be an adult. I net about 2k a month. I grew up Catholic. If I wanted to take a vow of poverty, I would have just become a nun teacher.

Go here. Sign the petition. Say something.

Kathleen France Feb 22, 2012 columbia, SC
Return us to our days of honor and do the right thing.

Robert Gowan Feb 22, 2012 Taylors, SC
I am a public school teacher and recently a father! I can't afford to support my family even with my wife working full time as well. I am a very qualified 6th year teacher whose salary has been frozen for the past 4 years. If this continues through next year I am in danger of losing my home, which will cause me to move. Talking to fellow teachers, we all feel the same. South Carolina is in danger of losing qualified teachers, only to replace them with less qualified ones, or even worse, none at all.

Leigh Watson Feb 22, 2012 Anderson, SC
The teachers in this state deserve better. You will find less and less people going into this field without better funding. We already see it in math and science.

Brittany Hilley Feb 22, 2012 Abbeville, SC
We can't move forward as a state, if we don't have teachers to educate the future generation. If we can't pay them or they can't find a job, they WILL go somewhere else that will and we as a state will fall behind every other state and be the laughing stock of the nation.

Victor Cruz Feb 22, 2012 Charleston, SC
Shameful we have to be doing this. Please, paid teachers what they deserve, fund schools properly.

Virginia Clark Feb 22, 2012 LADSON, SC
You are shortchanging our children and grandchildren. The corporations make billions of dollars of profit as it is.

Bob Bouton Feb 22, 2012 Greenville, SC
Use returning revenues to honor our state's commitment to its teachers and fully fund our schools

Rod Mattingly Feb 22, 2012 Beaufort, SC
Which comes first? Industry requires a skilled/educated workforce. We are way behind. Pay our teachers; bonus superior results. Motivated teachers and principals will lead their students to success. Nikki, wake up!!

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Jeannette DuPree Feb 22, 2012 Columbia, SC
Teachers deserve higher pay than athletes, actors, politicians...and they deserve RESPECT! No wonder this country is going to the dogs!

Patrick Nasarre Feb 22, 2012 Charleston, SC
Education should be a priority for every government of every country who wants to lead the world. That's the only way this world will get better!!!!!!

Deborah Bannister Feb 22, 2012 Charleston, SC
Please acknowledge the hard work of South Carolina teachers. I easily work 12 hours a day and six days a week on behalf of this state and its students. Cost of living is rising, but legislators seem to think I can live on what I did 6 years ago. With stipends and programs that have been cut, and no cost of living raises, I am making several thousand less than I did 4 years ago. I have not cut my service to YOU. I work just as hard, pay out of my pocket for what you have taken away, and do all the duties and extra-curricular activities that I did before. I support South Carolina education. When will you support me?

Cara Spitz Feb 22, 2012 Mt. Pleasant, SC
Teachers have not received a pay increase in 4 years, contrary to what our signed contracts state our salaries should be. This makes it very difficult to live with the cost of living continuing to rise (groceries, electricity, etc..) and no salary increase.

Erin Hudson Feb 22, 2012 Spartanburg, SC
As a first year teacher who is leaving the field, I can say that I have stood side by side with incredible people every day who work hard for next to no pay because they love students. It isn't right, and the fact is, many of these people have to leave the field or get second jobs because the salaries are not enough.

Tim Huber Feb 22, 2012 Summerville, SC
No school administator should be making significantly more money than a classroom teacher earns. Get that worked out and some of the funding issues would autocorrect.

Deborah D. Wimberly Feb 22, 2012 Bennettsville, SC
Not only is the Govenor and the State Superintendent targeting teacher salaries they are also keeping the base student cost at a level that goes back to the 1990s, despite state law. How can this be?

Bonnie Poore Feb 22, 2012 Abbeville, SC
How can the children get the education they need in over crowded class rooms? We need teachers and they deserve to be paid for what they do. Let the governor work without pay, give up her salary for the budget.

Elita Pillin Feb 22, 2012 Irmo, SC
Gov. Haley, Didn't a teacher educate you???

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Winnie Williams Feb 22, 2012 Seneca,, SC
Please be rminded that our Education Programs determine the condition of SC. Please do not fail our children nd the future of SC.

Thelma L. Cummings Feb 22, 2012 Anderson, SC
Governor Haley, Pleasse honor the commitment as promised to the Teachers of S.C, so that our children can get the Education needed. That's what our Taxdollars pay for.

Joyce Roberts Feb 22, 2012 Camden, SC
Education funding should be a priority. Growing the economy starts with our school-age children and the BEST teaching staff possible.

Gwendolyn Smith Feb 22, 2012 Little River, SC
I knew that Nikki Haley was against education from the start that's why I didn't vote for her. Wish all educators did the same.

Daniel Craig Lathey Feb 22, 2012 Sullivans Island, SC
Since moving to South Carolina, it has become very evident that the government of this state cares very little for public education. It is a shame to see the people in charge constantly asking more from us while taking away our resources for both doing the job and living our lives. All that will be accomplished by this course of action is forced movement by our quality teachers to go elsewhere where we are appreciated.

Marilyn Turturici Feb 22, 2012 Spartanburg, SC
Our teachers and students deserve the respect and commitment by the state to fund education.

Michael Schilter Feb 22, 2012 Folly Beach, SC
A world superpower cannot exist unless its citizens are educated.

Cara Finley Feb 21, 2012 Sumter, SC
We need to only restore teachers salaries, but increase it so that it is equal to our level of education and other occupations with the same level of education and expertise.

Elise C Hind Feb 21, 2012 Honea Path, SC
The future looks very bleak for public education. I imagine recruiting new teachers will become very difficult if the class loads continue to grow and the working conditions continue to decline. Couple that with decreasing salaries and lack of job stability and you have a budding crisis on your hands.

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Amy E. Campbell Feb 21, 2012 Pelzer, SC
I'm a teacher that loves her students and the job that I do. It's not about the money for me, but I work hard and I'm educated. I use much of my own money to provide the things that I need to do my job well. I also buy my students things so that they do not have to do without. I pray that SC will not let us down.

Erica Skibinski Feb 21, 2012 Charleston, SC
4th year teacher...still getting paid 1st year salary. This makes it difficult when I bought my house considering I thought my salary would increase with my experience. I am dedicated to my job, I coach, and I work on committees. Now I want to be able to pay my mortgage without having to sacrifice groceries or supplies for school. You need to invest value into the people that train the children of the future, and you definitely need to get rid of the teachers that don't have success in the classroom.

Karen Oliver-Paull Feb 21, 2012 Indian Land, SC
It is a disgrace that our teachers are paid such low salaries and then expected to write lesson plans for each child who is not proficient for their grade level. Most of the teachers I know stay well into the night at school to get everything done that is required of them. Many of them are depressed because they feel like they are not valued as human beings because they get such low pay, have too many students, and are under pressure to teach children of people who treat our school system as free daycare. The least you can do is pay them properly. It makes me feel sad when people hear I'm from South Carolina because they assume that I come from a state full of ignorant people. Well, they could be right as ignorance is due to a lack of education.

Kathy Rackley Feb 21, 2012 Charleston, SC
I support the SC teachers and the need to raise their salaries in order to attract the best talent to teach our children. Give teachers the raise they deserve and need.

Lauren Vaughn Feb 21, 2012 Boiling Springs, SC
As a teacher, I certainly appreciate this petition!

Betsy Long Feb 21, 2012 Camden, SC
All funding for K-12 public education needs to be restored. Our children deserve to be educated for the future with adequate resources, starting with highly qualified, fairly paid teachers.

Richard C Goldie Feb 21, 2012 Gilbert, SC
Neither one's political party nor one's political orientation should come into play when the issue of priority for proper support for our schools arises.

Michael Scott Steedley Feb 21, 2012 Walterboro, SC
I'm a college educated teacher who never entered the public school sector because salaries are so low it makes it difficult to survive. This is a very sad fact! Teaching is one of the most valued professions of all and should be recognized as such!

Go here. Sign the petition. Say something.

Joyce Thomas Feb 21, 2012 McClellanville, SC
It is embarrassing that these professionals are paid so poorly. They are, after all, the people who are preparing OUR CHILDREN FOR THEIR FUTURE. What could be a more important job?!?

Susan Best Feb 21, 2012 Salem, SC
SC should make education a top priority! Broken promises to honorable public servants is disgraceful! Put our children first if you care about the future of our proud state!

Stevie P Shirey Feb 21, 2012 Summerville, SC
They are held to high professional standards but not paid or treated like professionals. With public universities costing $10,000/semester, how do we expect to attract new teachers at $24,000/yr starting pay? HUGE problem on the horizon.

Jo Carlisle Feb 21, 2012 Chapin, SC
The dedication and caliber of teachers in this state is threatened by cuts to our educational system. These are people to whom we entrust the future of America, our children. We must reward these dedicated individuals not penalize them for choosing such a demanding career!

Susan Arentsen Feb 21, 2012 Pawleys Island, SC
Having been in an excellent system in Illinois, I have been impressed by the talent and dedication of teachers in this area. Our children desperately need to continue to have this level of public school teachers if our state is to thrive. It takes generations of excellence for families to inculcate the value of education for their children if they themselves are not educated. Please help us to live up to the public's promise to our teachers.

Kelly Herring Feb 21, 2012 Rock Hill, SC
I am so disappointed in our govenor and legislature. Our children are the future of this state and I can not believe you want to put there education in jepordy. I have personally talked to people who deciced to live in NC because the SC schools are so bad. I am a retired teacher and am proud of my contribution to helping SC youth. Please wake up. SC polliticians are putting our chances of encouraging business growth in peril. I have NO confidence in my state leaders..

Laural Christine Webb Feb 21, 2012 Taylors, SC
Education level is South Carolina is not very high. Our so called intelligent governor thinks will increase the level of education. Tell her to stop sitting on her brains and do what is best for our kids.

It's your turn. Go here. Sign the petition. Say something.

An officer but no gentleman: Zais attacks Inez Tenenbaum

To the best of my memory, former Superintendent of Education Inez Tenenbaum started her career as a classroom teacher, then became a lawyer specializing in children's advocacy, then was elected superintendent of education in 1998 and was re-elected in 2002.

In fact, I believe Tenenbaum was so popular a state superintendent that she collected more votes than anyone else running statewide in 2002, and was the only Democrat elected statewide the year that Mark Sanford defeated Jim Hodges.

I recall hearing Tenenbaum say, time after time, that South Carolina's curriculum standards were already among the highest in the nation before the Bush administration imposed its so-called "No Child Left Behind" on South Carolina and the other 49 states.

And I recall that it wasn't only Tenenbaum saying it, but Education Week magazine consistently ranked South Carolina's standards high.

So I was shocked to learn that the fellow currently occupying the superintendency, Mick Zais, has unleashed a scorched-earth attack on Tenenbaum on the very subject that Tenenbaum was strongest: High standards.

Zais's new attack against a predecessor -- and, by the way, the woman who presently serves the nation as Consumer Product Safety Commissioner, ensuring that consumer products are manufactured to higher safety standards -- came as part of a diatribe against U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan.

Now, just to review, during the same period of time that Tenenbaum was a classroom teacher and a lawyer specializing in children's advocacy, Zais collected an engineering degree from West Point Academy, masters and doctorate degrees in social psychology and organizational behavior from the University of Washington, and other degrees from military training programs, and served in a variety of Army commands on bases around the world.

According to his official biography, Zais's total experience in a classroom has been three years as "assistant professor" at West Point Academy, teaching "organizational behavior, leadership, and management consulting" to West Point cadets, not such basic -- and tested -- subjects as language arts, mathematics, social studies, science, et cetera, to South Carolina public schoolchildren.

So, armed with that awareness, here's what I read of Zais's screed to Duncan, in which he lambasted Tenenbaum and her successor, lifelong educator and former Columbia College president Jim Rex.

“Let me be crystal clear: South Carolina’s standards were lowered through an organized effort by former Democratic State Superintendents of Education Inez Tenenbaum and Jim Rex, the State Board of Education, the Education Oversight Committee, and taxpayer-funded education lobby groups. Their intent was to hide the true performance of our schools from students, parents, and taxpayers.”

“The governance of South Carolina’s system of education is too fragmented. Parents and taxpayers don’t need more unaccountable boards in Columbia; they need leaders willing to take principled stands to transform education so every student receives a personalized and customized education, not an inflexible, standardized one. That is my mandate from the voters.”

Zais continued, “Under my proposal for flexibility from certain provisions of No Child Left Behind, South Carolina would implement a new system of accountability that would grade schools from A through F, something every student and parent can understand. The proposal would set high and achievable standards for every student in every school. I look forward to submitting this proposal by February 28 and working with the U.S. Department of Education to gain approval of the State’s waiver request.”

“As State Superintendent of Education, it is my goal to raise standards as new statewide assessments are implemented in the next few years. History has shown, and President Obama’s Administration has confirmed, the education establishment in South Carolina and their lobbyists cannot be trusted.”

Zais concluded, “I call on all students, parents, and taxpayers to hold those responsible for lowering standards to account, and to stand with my allies and me as we work to transform education in South Carolina. Now is the time to put students first. That is my calling; that is my charge to keep.”

Words of an angry man, to be sure.

So the blame for Zais's inability to command a population that never sought to be commanded rests at the feet of Inez Tenenbaum and Jim Rex, whose primary crime was to advocate for South Carolina's public schoolchildren in times when state and federal lawmakers imposed standards and accountability without sufficient resources, through the old Education Accountability Act of 1998 and No Child Left Behind of 2001.

I would suggest -- and I'm surprised that the superintendent, with his degree in social psychology and certainly his awareness of a concept called "projection," wouldn't recognize this -- that he may be projecting his own negative emotion and feelings of incapacity upon his more-popular predecessors who, for all of their imperfections, retained a measure of trust from the state's community of professional educators because all knew that Tenenbaum and Rex had lived, breathed, walked in the shoes of those professions throughout their careers.

Leading troops in Vietnam, Korea, Panama, Kuwait and Kosovo clearly were monumental tasks, worthy of respect and admiration. But here, in quite a different theater of public service, it is conduct unbecoming a state superintendent to lash out at a woman whose service in the same position position ended more than five years ago. What benefit does one gain from attacking her?

I'm not sure -- I suspect that the vast, and let me say again, vast majority of education professionals are not sure -- that a career in military service, capped by a decade presiding over a small private college, really represents a "calling" to lead a state's public education system. Certainly, voters elected one candidate over another, and the office is occupied, but let's not fall off into hyperbole.

Preside over a classroom of seventh-graders who aren't quite as motivated and disciplined as, let's say, West Point cadets for 29 years, and the vast majority of education professionals would likely not flinch when one claims a "calling" and a "charge to keep" in leading public education.

Have the grace to refrain from ad hominem political attacks on predecessors of the opposite party -- as I noticed the good general didn't reach so far back in his anger as to bruise Superintendent Barbara Nielson -- and at the very least, no one would question one's sense of decorum as the executive officer of an agency in the state that birthed the code duello, Wade Hampton and the glistening swoon.

Tough as nails and committed as a prize fighter, Inez Tenenbaum is still a lady, an ever rarer sort in the Haley Age.

And no matter how badly one grinds one's teeth, a gentleman in South Carolina never attacks a lady.

And over her standards.

South Carolina ranks 45th in overall child well-being

Good thing that India's ambassador to the United States, Nirupama Rao, won't be visiting South Carolina long enough to attend next month's annual conference sponsored by the USC-Upstate Child Advocacy Center. Learning that Governor Nikki Haley presides over a state that ranks 45th in the nation -- out of 50, mind you -- in overall child well-being might tarnish Haley's international celebrity.

Not that the governor pays attention to her international press coverage. At all.

But for the rest of us, the conference may be eye-opening.

According to recent statistics, one in four girls is sexually abused before the age of 14, and one in six boys is sexually abused before the age of 16. Child maltreatment, however, involves more than just physical and sexual abuse; it also includes emotional abuse and failure to meet the basic needs of the child.

South Carolina ranks 45th in the United States for overall child well-being, and high rates of all forms of maltreatment in Spartanburg County have far-reaching consequences.

Many serious and costly youth problems, such as teen pregnancy, juvenile crime, school failure and substance abuse are preceded by child abuse and neglect. Furthermore, child abuse and neglect can disrupt early brain development, leading to increased risk of lifelong emotional and physical problems.

With these facts in mind, the University of South Carolina Upstate’s Center for Child Advocacy Studies is hosting its third annual conference, A Brighter Future: Ending Child Abuse through Advocacy and Education, on Friday, March 30, 2012 from 8 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. on the USC Upstate campus.

The conference is designed to target a broad audience of concerned citizens and professionals who work with children, including healthcare personnel, legal experts, the faith community, counselors, educators, social workers, victim service professionals, and community members.

According to Dr. Jennifer Parker, professor of psychology and program director, the conference is a major initiative to increase community awareness of the problem and to provide ongoing community education.

“The objectives of the conference are to impart a greater understanding of the problem of child abuse and its serious impact on child development and the community, as well as to provide expert training to those working with children,” said Parker. “I want to ensure that every citizen is capable of recognizing early warning signs of child abuse and neglect and will take appropriate action to end this pervasive problem in our community.”

The event’s keynote speaker is Victor Vieth, director of the National Child Protection Training Center. He has trained thousands of child protection professionals from all 50 states, two U.S. territories, and 17 countries on numerous topics pertaining to child abuse investigations, prosecutions and prevention. Vieth is also the author of Unto the Third Generation, an initiative that outlines the necessary steps we must all take to eliminate child abuse in America in three generations.

Additional speakers include: Mark D. Everson, Ph.D., director of the Program on Childhood Trauma and Maltreatment at UNC – Chapel Hill; Arlene F. Lee, associate director of the Center for the Study of Social Policy in Washington, DC: Dr. Nancy A. Henderson, M.D., director of Forensic Pediatrics at Greenville Children’s Hospital, Greenville, S.C.; Suzanna Tiapula, J.D., director of the NCAA’s National Center for Prosecution of Child Abuse in Alexandria, Va.; Barbara Knox, M.D., medical director of the University of Wisconsin Child Protection Program at the American Family Children’s Hospital in Madison, Wisc.

But, hey, ranking 45th in the nation means that there are five states worse than us.

Congratulations, Governor Haley. Here's one ranking where we're not at the bottom!

You've got to AC-centuate the positive, E-liminate the negative...

Haley snubs President of the United States, ditches banquet

What a sweet scoop from The Times of India, a property of the Times Group family (which includes, among other hot properties, the Pune Mirror, the Bangalore Mirror, the Ahmedabad Mirror, the Mumbai Mirror, and Indiatimes).

South Carolina's Indian-American Republican Governor Nikki Haley criticised President Barack Obama's "failure to handle America", but said "personal plans" kept her and husband Michael from attending Sunday's White House dinner.

Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama host the dinner annually for the governors to coincide with the National Governors Association conference in Washington.

"We were meeting with friends," Haley told reporters Monday, following a press conference organised by the Republican Governors Association (RGA).

Haley said she and her husband "were honoured" to attend the White House dinner last year -- her first as governor -- but wanted to see friends Sunday night.

Haley attended Monday morning's meeting with Obama and Vice President Joe Biden, where the president stressed the importance of education policy.

Haley later joined fellow Republican governors, Indian-American Bobby Jindal of Louisiana and Bob McDonnell of Virginia, at the RGA press conference to blast Obama's policies and urge the election of a Republican president.

In addition to stressing the Republican message on business and education issues, Haley, who has endorsed Republican Mitt Romney, said Obama was coming in the way of development in her state.

"In South Carolina, we can't even pass our own bills without him getting in the way," she said. "We pass illegal immigration reform, he stops it. We pass voter ID, he stops it. We get Boeing, he stops it."

"I mean, I'd just like to be a governor and be able to take care of my state. The president's trying to handle the entire country, and he's failing," Haley said.

Personal plans. With friends.

Our classy governor, who spent last year's visit to the White House famously checking email and tapping out her memoir on an iPad, traveled to Washington for the annual governors' conference at the White House but ditched the annual governors' banquet, hosted by the President and First Lady of the United States, to visit friends.

Cyberspace sources today suggest that Haley's friends were the sort who write checks to demonstrate their friendship, that she snubbed the President and First Lady of the United States to attend a fundraiser. No corroboration yet, but the quarterly filing to the Federal Election Commission will tell that tale soon enough.

I wonder: Would Haley have similarly insulted former President and First Lady George W. and Laura Bush, and blown off a banquet hosted by them for governors, had she served during their regime? I suspect not; I suspect she'd have figured out a way to drag an extra chair up to the head table so she could be photographed munching quesadillas with Dubya.

Mmm. Cheesy.

And to see this glowingly published in The Times of India is all very exciting. It calls to mind the comments offered by former Senator Fritz Hollings to the Sunday Times of London, referring to former President George W. Bush as "half a bubble off plumb," or the time that former Governor Dick Riley told the Agence-Presse of Paris that former President Ronald Reagan was "ready for the home." It really warms the heart to see sitting South Carolina statesmen ridiculing our chief executive officer in the foreign press.

Of course, only one of these three instances ever occurred. Hollings and Riley, statesmen of the first order, would not have resorted to petty personal jibes at the President of the United States, in the foreign or domestic media.

Our present state regent appears unconstrained by such scruples.

And it clearly wins her favor among the Indian people, who regard her as a "star," as reported by the Indian ambassador to the United States.

The ambassador is coincidentally in South Carolina this week, observing Haley's subjects in their native habitat and expressing her hopes that Haley will lead a trade mission to her parents' native land soon.

India's recently-appointed ambassador to the United States, Nirupama Rao, was visiting the State Ports Authority Tuesday in Charleston as part of a three-day visit to South Carolina.

Rao said that she's looking forward to meeting with Gov. Nikki Haley, the daughter of Indian immigrants, and she hopes that Haley will consider leading a trade mission to India.

"She's a star there, naturally," said Rao. "I think all of India just adores her, and we are proud of her achievements."

Rao began her three-day visit to the Palmetto State at the SPA offices in downtown Charleston, where she also planned to visit the College of Charleston. The ambassador, who is visiting South Carolina for the first time, is scheduled to meet with Haley on Wednesday in Columbia, where she will also address the Columbia World Affairs Council luncheon.

On Thursday Rao and her entourage will be in the upstate area, touring the BMW auto plant near Greenville.

Where our governor is also regarded a star, no doubt.

Lawmakers propose robbing, then punishing, public employees

It's the same old song.

State Constitution empowers lawmakers to raise revenues necessary to fully fund the state's essential obligations and institutions. It doesn't give that power to the rest of us, only to the 170 men and women sitting in judgment in Columbia.

And when their decisions to rejigger how we invest retirement system funds, at precisely the moment of an economic downturn, results in a big drop in investment returns, what's their best proposal?

Rob more money from the pockets of poor, working-class public employees, then punish them further with cuts to retirement benefits.

This is not creative problem-solving; this is abrogation of responsibility. Deadbeat dad-ism. Absentee landlord-ism.

Here are the highlights identified by The State newspaper:

State workers to put more in, get less out

A look at the financial impact of proposed retirement changes

The average state employee would pay an extra $408 a year in retirement contributions.

State retirees, over the next 30 years, would receive $8 billion less in benefit payments.

State taxpayers, over the next 30 years, would pay $8.3 billion less into the retirement system.

It's a win-win-win, right? For everyone except those poor individuals who were willing to devote their careers to public employment, knowing that it meant lower wages but safe, secure retirement benefits that let us age in dignity.

Proposals like these drain the dignity from the process.

Proposed changes to the state retirement system immediately would cut $2.2 billion from its $13 billion deficit, according to a review of the plan by an independent accounting firm.

That is because, under the proposal, state workers’ retirement benefits would be based on five years of salary instead of three years of salary, a move that could lower benefits. And state workers could no longer include unused sick and vacation days to earn higher benefits.

The proposed changes mean that, over the next 30 years, state retirees would get $8 billion less in benefits than they would have under the current plan. And state taxpayers — required by law to contribute to the state retirement fund — would contribute $8.3 billion less than would have been required under the current plan.

House lawmakers plan to introduce a retirement bill this week, following months of negotiations with state workers, retirees and Gabriel Roeder Smith & Co., the consulting firm paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to advise lawmakers on the retirement system’s finances.

Here's the answer -- and it wouldn't have cost the state those "hundreds of thousands of dollars": Treat public employees with dignity and respect. Either pay them up front in much higher wages, or afford them the retirement security that comes from having reasonable retirement benefits they can count on.

“We are pushing hard to make sure we take corrective action now,” said House Majority Leader Rep. Kenny Bingham, R-Lexington. “If we can do it now, we’re really going to save the system a great amount of pain in years to come.”

Corrective action was necessary two decades ago, when lawmakers chose a path of atrophy: Paying less from state resources, investing less from state resources, cutting corporate taxes by loopholes and wholesale, demanding more from employees and offering less to them.

Or, if you want to look at things in the much longer view: Corrective action was necessary two generations ago, when lawmakers voted in 1954 to establish South Carolina as a "right-to-work-for-less" state, anchoring us forever to the old plantation and mill labor systems.

The S.C. State Employees Association opposes the changes for current employees, which would have the biggest impact on the deficit, according to the consultants’ review.

“We didn’t get into this scenario overnight, and we’re not going to get out of it overnight,” said Carlton Washington, the association’s executive director. “It would be, we think, punitive to punish employees who have provided the committed service over a number of years and built their portfolio around those expectations.”

Washington hit the nail on the head: South Carolina punishes its public employees -- just as it allows private employers to punish its workers -- for not being born into the state's aristocracy and ruling elite. Born powerless, we're kept powerless with a corporate boot on our collective neck.

In addition to benefit changes, state workers would have to pay an extra 1 percent from each paycheck into the retirement fund — an average increase of $408 a year. State Rep. Gilda Cobb-Hunter, D-Orangeburg and a member of the House retirement ad hoc study committee, said Monday she will push to have that increase phased in over two years to lessen the impact.

Why accept this proposal at all? Rather than offering to lessen the impact by phasing it in over two years, why not send those high-paid consultants back to the drawing board and asking them this question: How much revenue must be raised and appropriated to the retirement system in order to preserve -- and even strengthen and improve! -- retirement benefits while holding harmless our public employees who don't have the extra thousands of bucks to cover this gap.

Say it with me: Public employees are not responsible for this problem. State lawmakers had, have and will always have the power to do what's right.

But Bingham, who is also a member of the retirement committee, said the reason for the 1 percent increase is to “make sure the (retirement) system got an infusion immediately.”

The system needs an infusion immediately? Easy fix: Immediately eliminate all corporate tax loopholes and instruct a grand total of one staff person to direct all necessary additional corporate tax revenues directly to the retirement system. And when the system is solvent, apply the rest of the additional revenues directly to the base student cost under the Education Finance Act.

By my calculation, that should take care of the retirement system AND restore the base student cost to 2012-13 levels.

Problem solved. And I won't charge a penny for the consultation.

But, no, that leaves public employees whole. It affords them a little dignity. It helps them sleep a little more soundly at night. So it's absolutely unworkable. If slavery and mill culture taught us anything, it's that the ruling class must keep its workers hungry and anxious in order to get the most compliance. So, another quarter-turn to the thumbscrews.

If passed into law, the proposal means new employees would have to work 30 years, or reach age 65 with five years of service, in order to retire with benefits. And they would be ineligible for the TERI program, the controversial program that allows employees to retire and receive benefits while still working.

Current employees — who are eligible to receive retirement benefits after 28 years of service — would be exempted for both of those changes.

All of the changes would apply to members of the S.C. Retirement System, the largest of the state’s five pension systems, which includes state employees, local government employees and teachers.

Police officers, firefighters and other law enforcement officers have their own retirement system. They also would have to use an average of five years of salary to calculate their retirement benefits. And they would be banned from using unused sick or vacation days to determine the amount of their benefit checks.

But law enforcement officers — including new hires — still would be able to retire after 25 years of service.

Lawmakers would not escape unscathed, either.

Under the bill, a state lawmaker would have to give up his or her seat in the Legislature in order to receive retirement benefits. The proposal would end the practice of lawmakers retiring but remaining in office and replacing their $10,400-a-year salaries with much larger pension benefits — more than $30,000 a year, in some cases.

My heart bleeds for our lawmakers, forced to retire before they could collect their thirty grand a year for life. How will they live?

For advice, they might consult their public workers, who've been living on pittances for generations.