SHS teacher goes to the State Capital for education reform

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SHS teacher goes to the State Capital for education reform

Teachers sit in at the State Capital on Tuesday, January 29th.

Teachers sit in at the State Capital on Tuesday, January 29th.

Charly Adkinson

Teachers sit in at the State Capital on Tuesday, January 29th.

Charly Adkinson

Charly Adkinson

Teachers sit in at the State Capital on Tuesday, January 29th.

By Ryan Okpych, Summerville High School

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On Tuesday, SHS teacher Ms. Adkinson, went to the state house with the SC for Ed group to lobby against South Carolina representative bill H.3759, a bill designed to reform education that is sponsored by House Speaker Jay Lucas.

Ms. Adkinson was one of the teachers from Dorchester District Two who showed up at the state capital, as part of the SC for Ed organization, citing that she was frustrated with the lack of change for education. She discovered the group last year.

“I initially joined this group called Lowcountry Area Teachers Taking Action which introduced me to SC for Ed and I joined that and went to the caucus, where we learned more about the group,” Ms. Adkinson said.

The group’s goals go beyond just for teachers, but for students and school’s programs as well, which applied directly to Adkinson.

“Because I love my kids, and I love my job, I felt it was imperative that I attend as many of these events as possible, especially those that involve going to Columbia and speaking directly to representatives,” Adkinson added.

SC for Ed is a grassroots run organization founded by Lisa Ellis, who has been teaching for 18 years. On their website, it says that the groups aim is to “improve the public education in South Carolina.” The group soared past 20,000 members in less than a year.

Ms. Adkinson says the problem roots from keeping teachers at the districts.

“If you are not recruiting and retaining high quality teachers, that directly impacts the student’s learning environment, which directly has an impact on grades, test grades, and graduation rates which makes the districts unhappy. It’s a snowball of events,” Ms. Adkinson continued.

Although she says that Dorchester District Two doesn’t have it as bad as other districts, she says it’s still important to speak up,

“While I might not have it as bad as some of those teachers in different districts, I still want to speak up for them,” Ms. Adkinson said.

Ms. Adkinson says the problems also stem from the subcommittees.

“It’s the subcommittees that are drafting the legislation and that’s problematic,” Adkinson elaborated.

“When you are sitting down at the table surrounded by a group of people that are not teachers and you’re trying to write laws for teachers, districts, and students, you have already shot yourself in the foot. Teachers need to be part of the conversation,” Adkinson continued.

The bill in question has been largely rejected by the education reform group for a lack of teacher representation, a topic that has been very popular when it comes to education in South Carolina.

Teachers in South Carolina are searching for a 10% pay raise, which is included in the bill. However, teachers are skeptical because the current teacher salary schedule would be abolished, causing an uncertainty as to when the pay raise would take effect.

Another aspect of the bill involves consolidating school districts that have less than 1000 students, of which 7 districts do. SC for Ed criticized this, saying the group is unsure where “new teachers” for the reconstituted districts will come from.

Ms. Adkinson said she had enough of the lack of representation, and that it’s time for action.

“I want to make a distinction of being a member of a Facebook group, and actually being an active member,” Adkinson said. “I feel like I see the same faces at every event I go to, and it’s frustrating for me when I’m pretty sure I was the only teacher from Summerville High School there.”

The teachers in the Facebook group warned, however, to make sure that not too many teachers took off on Tuesday to prevent a substitute shortage.

“If we’re going to have a successful movement, we need to start showing up and directing the legislators directly,” Ms. Adkinson continued.

“You can’t put students first if you put teachers last,” Ms. Adkinson remarked.

This story was originally published on Wave Breaker on January 31, 2019.