South Carolina’s education superintendent won’t support teachers rallying for better pay and smaller class sizes on a school day and said she will spend the day as a substitute teacher instead even as more school canceled classes.
State Superintendent Molly Spearman said Monday she supports teachers advocating for needed changes in the state’s education system. But she said a rally by thousands for teachers planned for Wednesday at the Statehouse isn’t the way to do it.
“I cannot support teachers walking out on their obligations to South Carolina students, families, and the thousands of hardworking bus drivers, cafeteria workers, counselors, aides, and custodial staff whose livelihoods depend on our schools being operational,” Spearman said in a statement.
Spearman joins fellow Republican Gov. Henry McMaster and other GOP officials criticizing the rally, being sponsored by online teacher group SC for Ed.
The group said it is rallying for smaller class sizes, better pay and more support staff like counselors in schools. They have been fighting for major changes to a massive education overhaul bill backed by McMaster and passed by the house that SC for Ed said had little input from teachers.
The bill is stalled in the Senate, where some senators are working to pare it down and others said it must have more input from teachers before they will let it come to a vote. Leaders in that chamber said it won’t pass this year.
On Monday, two more districts decided to call off classes for Wednesday. Lexington-Richland District 5 said in a statement that the number of teachers already asking for the day off combined with what would likely be more absences in the next few days led district officials to decide keeping children out of school was safest.
The district in the Columbia suburbs has about 17,400 students.
The Colleton County School District on Monday mentioned similar reasons for having its 5,500 students stay home Wednesday.
Dorchester County District 2 with 26,200 students near Charleston and Chester County schools with 5,100 students have already canceled classes for Wednesday. Other systems are reporting sharp increases in teachers planning absences and filing for substitutes.
Rep. Russell Ott plans to speak at the rally. The Democrat from St. Matthews says he isn’t surprised some lawmakers are trying to downplay the rally and frustrate teachers until they stop fighting.
“I see that tactic at work all the time over here,” Ott said. “Especially after a group finds its voice.”
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