The State Newspaper ran an article on Monday with the heart-wrenching title: Teachers take 2nd jobs to help make ends meet. The story primarily focuses on one young teacher (she works at the restaurant her husband owns!) and invites readers to imagine many other dedicated young teachers also struggling to get by.
But a closer look at the data shows that teachers in South Carolina, even at entry level, earn more than most of their regional peers in the Southeast. Further, they make more money than the average South Carolinian and even more than the median family income in the state.
According to the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) the average salary of a public school teacher in South Carolina was $42,189 in 2005 (the most recent year they have analyzed). This was 88 percent of the national average; $47,602. South Carolina was ranked 28th among the 50 states, ahead of six southeastern states (TN, AR, TX, LA, MS, and AL).
Teachers worked an average of 36.5 hours per week, not including their generous summer vacation. The Manhattan Institute, also looking at 2005 data, found that teachers on the North Carolina / South Carolina border averaged $28.18 in hourly income, $3.80 more than their similarly educated white collar peers working in non-sales jobs. In Greenville it was $30.96 per hour, and in Aiken and North Augusta it was $30.55.
That same year, 2005, the median family income in South Carolina was $39,316 and the per capita income was $28,212. South Carolina’s median family income ranking was 40th nationally, and per capita income ranking was 44th. As a reference point for cost of living; a single family home in South Carolina cost 86 percent of the national average price in 2005.
These numbers paint a much clearer picture than the “case studies” in the State Newspaper. While South Carolina ranks in the bottom fifth for personal and family income, the state is middle of the nation for teacher salaries. Just at important, the low cost of living in the state gives these teachers greater purchasing power than similarly salaried peers in the west and northeast. Were the AFT to adjust its state rankings to account for cost of living South Carolina would rank even higher.
But the REAL story is not how much (or little) these teachers are salaried. The heart of the issue, which the State ignores, is that a mere 44 cents per educational dollar reaches the classroom in the form of instructional spending (a category that includes teacher salaries). This means that taxpayers already provide the funds for better teacher salaries, but the entrenched bureaucratic administration chooses not to allocate it to them.