- Associated Press - Monday, January 12, 2015

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) - Gov. Nikki Haley’s $6.9 billion spending proposal, released Monday, would establish a teacher recruitment program that aims to get high-quality teachers in rural schools.

The budget lays out the second year of her education initiatives, which include an additional $10 million on reading coaches in elementary schools, for a total of $40 million next school year. It again puts $29 million toward technology improvements - honoring the second of a three-year commitment.

Haley’s plan for recruiting and retaining teachers in districts with the state’s highest teacher-turnover rates includes the following:

-Students would get up to four years of tuition at a public college paid by committing to teach in a district where annual turnover exceeds 12 percent. Currently, 21 districts meet that definition. The person must teach two years for every year of tuition paid.

-Teachers already out of college could get their student loans paid off by moving to one of those districts. They would get one year’s worth of tuition paid off for every year they teach.

-Young teachers could boost their pay. Teachers within their first five years in a classroom would get paid as if they’ve been teaching five additional years. If that were applied under this year’s salary schedule, a first-year teacher would receive $31,600, a salary boost of nearly $3,700.

-Those who have been teaching more than five years can get two years of graduate school tuition paid.

-High-quality teachers in high-turnover districts could get a $5,000 annual stipend for mentoring new teachers.

Teachers could receive up to three of those incentives, though only one of the first three.

“We need good, strong teachers to teach in rural school districts. Our kids in those rural areas need to start seeing constant faces,” Haley said.

The plan would be funded by phasing out the state’s stipend to teachers who earn national certification. Currently, National Board Certified teachers receive an annual bonus of either $5,000 or $7,500 - depending on when the teacher applied - for the 10-year life of the certificate. No new board applicants would receive the stipend. In 10 years, when it’s fully phased out, there would be $55 million annually for the recruitment program.

In 2015-16, just $1.5 million is projected to be available, essentially allowing for its marketing for future years.

South Carolina consistently ranks third nationwide in National Board Certified teachers, with 8,820.

But Superintendent Mick Zais, who leaves office Wednesday, has repeatedly argued the program hasn’t proven to increase teacher effectiveness. And legislators have long complained that few National Board teachers work in low-performing schools.

Haley’s budget would put an additional $51 million toward increasing the “base student cost” by $80 to $2,200 per student. That’s a main funding source for schools in South Carolina’s complicated, piecemeal system.

“Base student cost,” which primarily pays teacher salaries, is calculated under a 1977 formula that’s adjusted annually for inflation. The state hasn’t complied with the law since 2008-09. Fully funding it at $2,801 would take $548 million more than Haley’s proposing, according to the state budget office.

Haley’s budget does not include her much-anticipated plan to fund road and bridge work. The Department of Transportation says it needs an additional $1.5 billion annually over 20 years just to bring roads to good condition.

Haley’s budget plan does provide an additional $61.4 million to the DOT. That comes from diverting the other half of money collected from the state sales tax on vehicles, which is capped at $300. Half of those collections already go to DOT under a 2013 law.

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