COLUMBIA, S.C. (WCBD) – Education leaders across the state are calling for policy change so more teachers will pursue and stick with the profession. The Palmetto State Teachers Association held a press conference in Columbia calling on state legislators to take action by passing legislation to reverse the industry’s staffing challenges.

Weeks ago, we brought you a story on teacher vacancies in South Carolina and how they are reaching critical levels. Teachers say pay increases and better incentives are needed, and they believe the responsibility is on lawmakers.

The Palmetto State Teachers Association held a press conference saying the staffing shortages are having significant impacts, ranging from elective classes being cut to teachers being forced to teach subjects they’re not familiar with and increasing teacher responsibilities.

“Valuable classes are being cut, teachers are being spread too thin, and students needs are not being met,” says Betsy Portune, President of he Palmetto State Teacher’s Association. “I am lucky to work in a great district where teachers are willing to step up and do the jobs but the last thing we need right now is to cause even more burnout for educators.”

Portune went on to say, “if educator shortages continue to grow across our state, stories of the impact on teachers like me and on students like mine will continue to grow.”

The group is calling on legislators to get involved by finding ways to attract new teachers, raising pay to better compensate the profession, improving retention and putting more trust into the teaching profession as a whole.

“Attracting the right people and compensating them for their professionalism and trusting that they know how to do the job that they’ve been trained to do is so very important and it’s what these posters behind me are about,” says Amy Carter, a South Carolina teacher. “I hope that we can do more to continue that conversation to get beyond recruitment and retention and end up talking about inspiration.”

The association’s last report showed 1,121 teacher opens state wide as of February this year.