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New SC Education Leader Pushes for $100M in Innovation Incentives for Schools, Teachers

Updated: Feb 5

This article by Joe Bustos was published by The State on February 1, 2023. New South Carolina Superintendent of Education Ellen Weaver wants $100 million to use as incentives for innovation in public schools, including $25 million for teachers to work in schools with the “highest needs.”

Weaver made the request as part of her first budget presentation to state House budget writers since being elected to succeed previous Superintendent Molly Spearman. Her budget request aligns with Gov. Henry McMaster’s call to increase the starting pay for teachers by $2,500 to $42,500, with a goal to bring starting pay to $50,000 a year by 2026. It also includes a $2,500 raise to each cell in the minimum teacher salary schedule, which bases pay off of experience and education. The pay raise would cost about $254 million. Her request also includes McMaster’s push for a $2,500 retention bonus for teachers next year, which would cost an additional $132.5 million. The proposed expenditures are part of an $803 million request of annual and one-time dollars made by Weaver as House budget writers consider spending priorities for next year’s spending plan, which is expected to be around $15 billion. She also pushed for a $2,000 one-time supplement for bus drivers to keep them on the job next year, which would cost about $12 million. “We must retain bus drivers if we’re going to get children to and from school,” Weaver said. The innovation incentives request is different from the budget request submitted by Spearman in the fall. Weaver wants to use $25 million in one-time money to give teachers bonuses to work in highest needs schools in their districts. The pilot program would be in 100 to 125 schools, with each participating school receiving up to $200,000. The Department of Education did not immediately define which schools are considered the “highest need.” An additional $75 million would be used for other incentives and grants to improve literacy, improve teacher preparation, create mentoring and tutoring programs, support schools of innovation and expand principal development. The work would “pilot initiatives found in education best practices that we believe will dramatically improve student achievement and then report back to you on what worked and what didn’t so you know how to set funding priorities in the future,” Weaver told House budget writers. As part of the mentoring and tutoring push, Weaver wants to work with businesses, faith organizations and parents to help inside schools. Weaver pointed to how former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush worked with businesses to have their employees come in and tutor and mentor students in classrooms. “I would love to see us engage with business and faith communities in the very same way,” Weaver said.

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