NEWS BRIEFS: Looking for more teachers; Dems for governor?

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Educators urge state action on teacher shortage

The numbers are stark: nearly 6,500 teachers do not return to their positions annually, while South Carolina education programs graduate 1,700 annually. On top of that, enrollment in S.C. teacher training programs is declining on average by 4 percent per year.

Teacher retention and recruitment were hot topics in Columbia earlier this year. A 2017-2018 budget included  the newly-formed Educator Retention and Recruitment Study Committee, chaired by S.C. Superintendent of Education Molly Spearman.

On Thursday, the committee heard a report from Dean Jon Pederson of University of South Carolina, and Dean Jennie Rakestraw of Winthrop University.

This week, the deans of six of South Carolina’s larger schools and colleges of education — including Pederson and Rakestraw — released a statement pushing for approval of pilot programs that allow conditional certification followed by full credentialing after years of service and demonstration of abilities, and increase funding for evidence-based mentoring programs such as Call Me MISTER and Teaching Fellows.

“You’ve got to stay with them after they graduate,” S.C. Sen. John Matthews, D-Orangeburg, said during the discussion portion of Thursday’s meeting.

The deans also fingered low teacher pay that keep recruitment to the profession low.

The committee will submit policy and legislative recommendations by Dec. 31.

In a related development, the “Leading the Way” Award for Outstanding Mentorship is a new award open to public school teachers in South Carolina who are on continuing contract and serve as mentors.  The honor will provide $2,500 cash awards to winners.  To nominate someone, click here to send an application to the Richard W. Riley College of Education at Winthrop University.  

—  Lindsay Street, Statehouse correspondent

Dems starting to queue up for governor?

It’s pretty much an open secret that state Rep. James Smith, D-Richland, will be a Democratic candidate for governor vying to challenge whoever wins the GOP nomination in a crowded field.

Smith

James plans to make an announcement about his intentions to run for governor in the coming weeks,” according to a slick new campaign-like website with a 4-minute biographical video that outlines why it was important for him to serve in the military in Afghanistan.  There’s also activity on Smith’s Facebook page that outlines four things people can do now to support Smith.

But Smith may not be the Democrats’ only gubernatorial hopeful.

First, recent news reports speculate on the possible candidacy of former state Democratic Party Chair Jaime Harrison, who is co-writing a book with a former Republican congressional staffer about working in politics.  Harrison, who once worked for U.S. Rep. Jim Clyburn, D-S.C., is associate chair and counselor at the Democratic National Committee.

Second comes an announcement by retired librarian Phil Cheney of Fair Play that he’s running for governor.

I am a traditional Democrat and I have to believe that South Carolinians are ready for a serious politician to work with other serious politicians on the many problems that have been allowed to accumulate during the last 14 years,” said Cheney, who served three terms on Anderson City Council.  “Deferred maintenance on our highways and bridges, failure to maintain the state’s school bus fleet, no raises for state employees and low morale among state employees are but the tip of the iceberg.  

“South Carolina deserves a better government, and, at age 68, I have the experience, understanding, and communication skills to bring factions together to produce much-needed change.  It will not be easy, but those who know me well know how persuasive and persistent I can be.”

In his video, Smith also touted his experience at bringing people together, noting that he had passed “60 to 70” major pieces of legislation in his years in the S.C. House.

“I’ve gotten, you know, 60, 70 major pieces of legislation done because I’ve worked hard to build relationships on both sides of the aisle because I see the potential,” he said.  “I see what can be.  I see what we can do in this state.”

Sounds like the Dems have at least two candidates — for now.

— Andy Brack, editor and publisher

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