Teachers with zero to two years of experience and a bachelor’s degree in Greenville County Schools will start out earning $40,000 next year — the highest starting teacher salary in South Carolina — after board members unanimously approved a $668.47 million budget.
Three people spoke in support of the Greenville County Schools budget during a public hearing just before the district’s second reading on May 21.
Sherry East, president of the South Carolina Education Association, said the district’s budget hit on nearly every goal the organization wants addressed — higher teacher pay, lower class sizes, more mental health counselors, and assured planning time for teachers.
“This will make Greenville County Schools more competitive to attract top quality teachers, but also it’s a positive step towards elevating the teaching profession as a whole,” Greenville County Schools teacher of the year Shelley Smith said.
The budget hinged on the state Legislature’s approval of aspects of the Senate’s budget, which also passed on May 21 and will fund a 4% raise for teachers across the state. It also relied on a 6-mill increase, which impacts taxes on vehicles and businesses but not owner-occupied homes.
The tax increase varies depending on the property and vehicle value — a 2008 Honda Accord’s taxes would increase $1.32 for the year, while a 2019 Honda Accord would increase $9 for the year. The district estimates a restaurant in the county would see an annual increase of $97.80, and a flower shop would see an increase of about $233.76.
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.
“I am one that very seldom will vote for millage increase — very seldom have I ever — but it comes to education and safety and all that these professionals do,” said board member Lynda Leventis-Wells.
The budget includes a 4% increase for nonteachers, who haven’t received a salary increase in two years. All teachers in the district will receive a pay increase of between 5% and 10.1%, with the average increase being 6.5%.
The budget also includes six additional elementary special education personnel, 12 positions to reduce the student-teacher class size ratio from 19:1 to 18:1 for first grade classes, 33 positions to reduce the number of allowable class size overages in second through fifth grade classes, 74.5 positions to allow teachers a 30-minute planning period, and 14.5 school counselor positions to reduce the ratio of middle and high school students to counselors from 275:1 to 250:1.
“This is an educator’s budget,” board member Michelle Goodwin-Calwile said.
Greenville County Schools is the first district in SC to increase teacher starting pay to $40K. After unanimous approval of its budget, the board room gave a standing ovation to Jeff Knotts, director of finance who’s retiring this year. pic.twitter.com/PjL025JhTu
— Ariel Gilreath (@arielgilreath) May 21, 2019