Teachers want veto of educator raises overridden
Slapping teachers in the face and driving good educators out of the profession isn’t good for South Carolina, but that’s how one local teacher characterized Gov. Nikki Haley’s latest veto of money to raise teachers’ pay.
Drayton Hall Elementary School teacher Patrick Hayes called on lawmakers Monday to override that veto and give educators the money they were promised.
“ ‘Thank you for your service’ isn’t cutting it anymore,” Hayes said at a news conference attended by about 20 others. “It’s time for this state to pay its bills to the people doing the heavy lifting in our schools.”
Haley vetoed $10.1 million that would’ve gone to boost teacher pay. In a memo explaining her vetoes, Haley said she did so because she supports responsible budget practices, and that money was one-time funding being put toward a recurring expense.
She said that would be the equivalent of making a promise about next year’s budget that can’t be kept. Haley did support $38.6 million in new, recurring funds for teachers’ salaries.
Rob Godfrey, Haley’s spokesman, said the budget includes almost $2.2 billion for public education, and the governor, who has two children in public schools, vetoed roughly one-half of a percent of that for schools.
“To argue that she is against public schools or teachers is, on its face, absurd and shows the lengths to which her political opponents will go to criticize the governor regardless of the facts,” Godfrey said.
Hayes is the leader of a grassroots group, Restore Teacher Salaries, that started this year and advocated for teachers to be given money that had been cut from their salaries during the last few years.
He called Haley’s logic “tortured” and said the state’s education funding system relies on sales tax, which is nonrecurring revenue.
“If your philosophy requires you to stick it to teachers year after year, allow me to suggest an upgrade,” Hayes said. “Because South Carolina is not with you on this. We are better than this. We can do better than this.”
Haley’s veto on teacher pay has prompted Hayes to launch a new organization, EdFirst. Its mission is supporting public schools by helping its membership engage in the political process to better support public education.
Its website, edfirstsc.org, states the group will support pro-public education candidates; oppose vouchers and tax credits; advocate for education funding reform and stabilization; and increase the percentage of money spent in classrooms.
Stephanie Rodevick, who teaches high school English at the Charleston Charter School for Math and Science, showed up to support Hayes at the news conference at the downtown Charleston County Public Library. More than 9,000 have signed the petition he started.
Rodevick decided she needed to take action when she learned dump truck drivers make more money than she does. Her workdays average 10 hours and extend into the weekends, but her pay doesn’t match her workload, she said.
She chooses to teach because she loves it, but it has meant finding three other jobs to support herself, Rodevick said. It’s time for the state to give teachers what’s been promised, she said.
“I don’t do it for the money, but it’s frustrating,” she said.
Mike Bobby, Charleston schools’ chief of finance, operations and human resources, said if lawmakers don’t override Haley’s veto, the school district would lose $650,000.
Bobby said the district would be responsible for finding those funds, either by cutting programs or using more of its rainy-day fund. He said he understands Haley’s logic in not wanting to use one-time money for recurring expenses but said the district has used its fund balance annually for at least seven years to make ends meet. It also has worked to put money back into that account.
District officials won’t make any decisions until lawmakers decide what to do. The board already approved a general operating budget of $357.1 million for this fiscal year, so the timing of this situation is unfortunate, he said.
Reach Diette Courrégé at @Diette on Twitter or 937-5546.