PSTA Legislative Agenda

Palmetto State Teachers Association 2017 Legislative Agenda

The Palmetto State Teachers Association 2017 Legislative Agenda outlines our priorities for the legislative session.

1.     Full Funding of Mandated Programs

Education funding should not be dependent on sales tax revenue alone.  The General Assembly needs to adopt a plan to restructure and stabilize the education funding in our state.

Full Funding of the Education Finance Act

The General Assembly must establish education as the state’s top funding priority. The cost of providing a sound educational program for all of the state’s children should not be funded using nonrecurring money. PSTA supports an increase in Base Student Cost to meet or exceed the level required by law. The education of 21st Century students necessitates 21st Century funding. The current Base Student Cost is $2,220.

Security of the EIA Penny for Innovation

The Education Improvement Act should be thoroughly examined and updated. Money from the EIA funds should NOT be used to supplant funding intended to be paid from the General Fund. To ensure that all sales tax revenues adequately fund the EIA programs, the majority of the sales tax exemptions must be eliminated.

State Must Fund the Fringe Benefits Program

Passing the costs of funding the fringe benefits program to the individual districts creates an unequal burden on the smaller, poorer districts and robs them of dollars that should be used to fund instruction. The legislature must appropriate funds to cover the costs of providing employee benefits. 

Full Funding of the Education Accountability Act

The passage of the Education Accountability Act was a milestone in improving the education system in South Carolina. The General Assembly MUST fund the cost of the programs mandated by the EAA.

2.     Funding K-12 Education

PSTA supports funding programs and resources for our poorer school districts. The recent Supreme Court ruling on the failure to adequately fund some of our state’s poorest school districts was necessary. PSTA supports the General Assembly and local school districts using creative solutions to fund school districts so all students receive a high quality education. The geographic area in which children are born should not determine resources provided for educating them. The tax base of many South Carolina school districts does not provide adequate funds for a high quality education.

The recent Supreme Court ruling court ruling has provided a starting point for action to take place. PSTA is in support of revamping the tax structure in South Carolina in order to fund a high quality education for all children regardless of where they live.

3.     Funding K-12 Reading

PSTA supports summer reading camps and reading coaches in every school district to work with teachers of struggling readers so all children are reading on grade level. PSTA supports professional development for teachers in reading which should be paid for by the state and/or provided by local school districts at no cost to teachers.

4.     Enact Comprehensive Tax Reform

 While protecting the state’s fiscal solvency and to ensure revenues necessary to properly fund public education, PSTA supports comprehensive tax reform. 

5.     Recruitment, Retention, Compensation, and Evaluation of Professional Educators

Recruitment

As South Carolina education continues to move forward, it is imperative we make teaching an attractive career. Providing scholarships for outstanding students to go into education (Teaching Fellows Program) and funding salary supplements for National Board Certified teachers are ways to increase the number of highly qualified teachers in our state. In addition, to address the shortage of teachers in critical need subject and geographic areas, the legislature should provide additional funds to attract individuals to these areas.

Retention

Research shows we lose many of our new teachers within the first five years of teaching.  To maintain a cadre of quality teachers in the classroom, the cap on the increments of the state salary schedule should be raised from 22 to 28 years. Adding steps to the state minimum salary schedule recognizes the value and worth of our veteran teachers, encouraging them to stay in the profession. The General Assembly must: 

  • fund comprehensive induction programs for new teachers that include networking, release time, and full-time mentor coaching for the first two years, and

  • fully fund mentor training for districts and allow trained National Board Certified Teachers to serve as mentors. 

Compensation

PSTA believes educators are professionals and should be duly compensated. We do not support reduction in teacher salary from one year to the next or the elimination of “step” raises for teachers who qualify. The General Assembly must address the discrepancies between South Carolina teachers’ salaries and the southeastern average teacher salary. Any changes to the current way teachers are compensated must be carefully considered and studied with teacher input. PSTA recommends the General Assembly increase the number of steps on the minimum salary schedule to 28 by annually funding an additional step for the next six years. The salary schedule has not been revisited since 2001. PSTA supports the revamping of the minimum state teacher salary schedule which would increase pay of all teachers.

Enhancing the Teaching Profession

Education is a profession, and educators are professionals. The state must ensure that only licensed educational leaders lead all schools, and that a properly trained, licensed, and compensated educator teaches every class.  PSTA encourages members of the General Assembly to work creatively to recognize outstanding teachers in their districts. PSTA values a working relationship between legislators and educators. We invite legislators to collaborate with teachers when making decisions that affect education. 

Evaluation

PSTA supports teacher accountability for teachers. PSTA believes evaluations should be reliable, valid, and fair. PSTA welcomes the opportunity to work with other education organizations to develop plans for an alternative evaluation process that we feel will be beneficial to South Carolina school students.

Academic Standards

PSTA supports the current process of academic standard adoption in which the Education Oversight Committee and State Board adopts standards. PSTA does not support any legislation that requires the General Assembly to approve standards before they are adopted.

6.     Tuition Tax Credits and Vouchers

PSTA does not support any legislation that will direct public funds to pay for private, religious, or home schooling. Tuition tax credit plans draw against our state’s general fund revenue resulting in unstable budgets for our public schools and other state agencies.

7.     School Safety

The best way to protect our children in schools is to have a well trained and armed resource officer in every school.

PSTA supports having a School Resource Officer in every public school with funding provided by the General Assembly. PSTA believes school districts should have updated safety plans based on recommendations from experts in school safety and the South Carolina Department of Education.

8.     Assault and Battery of School Employees 

PSTA supports changing criminal laws so that anyone who commits assault and battery on a school employee faces penalties that are consistent with or greater than the penalties that apply for making threats to school employees.

9.     School Choice

PSTA strongly supports public school choice as smaller learning communities within the public schools.  These include charter schools, magnet schools, virtual schools, single gender, and Montessori education as public school choice options.

10.  South Carolina Retirement System

It is important to PSTA that the retirement system is solvent for our current and future retirees. We support the South Carolina retirement system staying a defined benefit plan. Defined benefit plans deliver retirement benefits in a proficient and cost-effective manner, consistently outperforming defined contribution plans. We feel the defined benefit plan is one tool to attract and retain quality teachers in our state.

11.  School Governance

The legislature must provide for the election of all school board members in nonpartisan elections and for fiscal independence of these elected school boards so they may raise the local funds needed to comply with state and federal mandates.    

12.  Collective Bargaining

PSTA strongly opposes any legislation that would permit or allow teachers to enter into professional negotiations. PSTA strongly supports the preservation of South Carolina’s Right-to-Work laws.