Greenville County Schools is proposing a 6.5% average pay increase for teachers in its 2019-20 budget released Tuesday.
Along with the increase, the district announced it will raise its teacher starting salary to $40,000, which would be the highest teacher starting salary in the state.
The $40,000 starting salary would be the base for teachers with zero to two years of experience and a bachelor’s degree — teachers with more advanced degrees and experience would earn more based on the district’s salary schedule.
First-year teachers will be asked to work an additional four days in the year beyond the 190-day calendar. Teachers with one year of experience will also receive a salary of $40,000 but will be asked to work an additional two days rather than four. Previously, the base starting salary for teachers in the district was $36,320, and they were asked to work an additional three days.
“There are other districts working toward the goal of paying $40,000 for starting salaries,” Greenville County Schools Superintendent Burke Royster said, but none have passed through the budget process yet.
The budget announcement came just one day prior to a teacher protest at the South Carolina Statehouse on May 1 over low pay and large class sizes, among other issues. The South Carolina Department of Public Safety reported that more than 10,000 showed up to the protest.
Greenville County Schools had 145 teachers request a personal day for May 1. Spokesperson Beth Brotherton said the average number of teachers requesting time off on a Wednesday in May is 35, but the average number for a Friday in May is 156.
“It seems really timely and appropriate that we are presenting a budget that addresses nearly all of the concerns raised by teachers that a local school district can do without changing policy at the state level,” Greenville County Schools board member Derek Lewis said.
For first-year teachers, the budget proposal amounts to a 10.1% salary increase, but the district reported teachers with between three and 30 years of experience would see varying pay increases of between 5% and 9%, depending on where they are on the salary schedule.
Royster said every teacher will see at least a 5% increase, even if they have worked past the 30-year mark when teachers stop receiving scheduled step increases in the district. The budget proposal also adds another step increase in the schedule for teachers with 31 years of experience.
“Even if you’re in year 44, you would get a 5% increase,” Royster said.
The district also announced added personnel in the budget to ensure teachers have at least a 30-minute planning period each day. The budget includes reduced student-to-teacher ratios for first-grade classes from an average of 19:1 to 18:1 and reduced student-to-counselor ratios from 275:1 to 250:1.
All other eligible employees in the district would also receive at least a 4% step increase, the district announced — nonteachers in Greenville County Schools have not had a step increase in two years.
The district has proposed a 6-mill increase to local property taxes to pay for the increases in the budget, which hinges on the Senate’s version of the state budget getting passed. The millage increase will generate $8.1 million.
“In the Senate version, our state revenue is greatly enhanced,” Royster said. “This is the first time in many years that the teacher raise itself was fully funded.”
For fiscal year 2019, the district approved a 5.1-mill increase. In 2018, the district approved a 2.3-mill increase, and the district didn’t increase millage for 2017. The total revenue and expenditures in the district’s 2019-20 budget is $668.4 million.
The proposed 6-mill increase is just slightly above the 5.7-mill increase a South Carolina Department of Revenue formula recommended this year in order for the district to keep up with inflation and population growth in the county.
The millage increase wouldn’t raise taxes on individual, owner-occupied homes, but it would for business-owned property and vehicle taxes.
The district will have a public hearing on the budget at 6 p.m. May 21, just before its second reading on the same day at 6:30 p.m.