COLUMBIA, S.C. (WSPA) — One of South Carolina’s largest educator groups shared their legislative agenda for the upcoming session in 2024.

The Palmetto State Teachers Association (PSTA) said their priorities are focused on addressing pressing issues such as the educator shortage, school safety, and expanding scholarship opportunities for education majors.

One of the concerns highlighted by PSTA is the ongoing shortage of educators in South Carolina. To combat this issue, they are advocating for increased compensation, specifically raising the starting teacher salary to $50,000 per year.

Governor Henry McMaster had said earlier this year he has a goal of achieving this by 2026 in South Carolina. The recommendation also echoes the findings of the Teacher Recruitment and Retention Taskforce which wrapped up their work a few months ago.

Patrick Kelly, director of governmental affairs, said improving working conditions will help with retention. He said the state cannot fix the shortage without retaining teachers.

According to Kelly, they support the expansion of enhanced lottery scholarships to education students. Kelly said these enhancements were established in 2008 to address the shortage of math and science majors in South Carolina. This measure aims to incentivize more students to pursue careers in education, ultimately bolstering the state’s teaching workforce.

Kelly said safety remains a top priority for the PSTA. This encompasses not only the physical safety of students but also their social and emotional well-being Kelly said. The PSTA called on state leaders to take decisive actions to create secure and stable learning environments, as well as safe communities for students to grow up in.

Earlier this year, South Carolina lawmakers took proactive steps by passing legislation and funding a School Safety and Targeted Violence Training Center for law enforcement.

The state has also revamped its policies to get more mental health counselors in its schools.