Gov. Haley, S.C. legislators discuss incentives to get, keep rural teachers

Allendale Elementary School teacher Christina Samraj (right), with Principal Sheila Leath, teaches profoundly mentally disabled students and was named Allendale County Teacher of the Year during the 2010-2011 school year. She is from India and is one of 20 foreign teachers on the county’s 113-teacher staff. Buy this photo

Incentives to lure more teachers to South Carolina’s struggling school districts may be on the way, if talks between Gov. Nikki Haley and legislators pan out.

Exactly what the incentives might be remains unclear, but Haley and the chairmen of the House and Senate education committees say they generally agree some incentive may be one way to get more teachers to poor districts where they are needed.

Among the possible incentives discussed are signing bonuses, increased salaries and college loan forgiveness.

Haley initiated the education talks in January when she called for legislators to explore ways to provide more help to school districts that lack sufficient tax bases to provide for their public schoolchildren.

The state is supposed to make up for that lacking local money but has cut what it supplies on a per student basis by as much as 20 percent over the past six years.

That loss of money strikes rural districts particularly hard because state cash makes up half or more of many of their budgets.

Haley has told The Post and Courier she believes the state funding formula for schools needs to be revisited to give more help to poor districts.

However, she has not offered any specifics.

The state’s failure to adequately support schools in those districts, 10 of which rank as failing, is one of the findings in The Post and Courier’s recent series “Forgotten South Carolina.”

Last week, Haley pointed to the word “Forgotten” in the series’ title and said she plans “to get the forgotten out of Forgotten South Carolina.”

Haley said her key objective of “jobs, jobs, jobs,” is the surest way to improve education and health in Forgotten South Carolina.

Since Haley took office in January 2011, she has announced 6,765 new jobs and $917 million in capital investment from businesses expanding or moving to rural counties, her office reports.

Haley first publicly mentioned the incentives idea after attending a ceremony last week at Manning Junior High School to congratulate students for their high score on a federal student performance test.

John Tindal, superintendent of Clarendon School District 2, which includes Manning Junior High School, said his district and other rural districts need teachers who will stay, not just come for a year or so and leave.

Republican Sen. John Courson, who chairs the Senate Education Committee and heads the Senate as president pro tempore, said reducing the number of school districts through some form of incentive also has been discussed.

He said he wants Haley to submit a formal plan to improve education, especially in struggling districts.

Pickens County Republican Rep. Phillip Owens, chairman of the House Education and Public Works Committee, said “I think we’ve been in the bottom nationally for a long time. None of us are proud of that.”



Reach Doug Pardue at 937-5558.

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