COLUMBIA, SC (WSPA) – South Carolina State Superintendent of Education Molly Spearman told lawmakers they should put some of the state’s surplus revenue towards teacher pay raises in 2022.

She spoke to a House Ways and Means subcommittee Wednesday morning about the her agency’s budget requests for this upcoming fiscal year.

Spearman said they’re requesting about $162 million to cover teacher pay raises. Superintendent Spearman said this would allow them to give educators in the state about a 2% raise.

“To retain teachers you have to reward folks all along the way,” said Spearman. “It’s tough and there’s no more important job in the state than this.”

During the meeting, Spearman said the starting salary for teachers across the state should be $40,000. She said some districts already do that, but lawmakers should look at what it would take to get that done across the board.

In his executive budget, Governor Henry McMaster suggested lawmakers increase the starting teacher salary to $38,000 a year.

Right now, the starting salary for teachers is $36,000 a year. Spearman told the subcommittee when she took office, the starting salary was around $29,000.

“Neither my request here nor the Governor’s request goes far enough. We try to be reasonable, and I hope with the additional funding you have you will do even more. They certainly deserve it,” Spearman told lawmakers.

House budget writers will continue to work on the budget for the next few months. One member of the subcommittee agreed with Superintendent Spearman.

“It has not been easy. You’ve got teachers who have been working virtually and face to face and doing double loads. Just trying to do the best they can,” said Rep. Shannon Erickson (R-District 124).

Superintendent Spearman also proposed raising the starting wage for school bus drivers.