Your SC politics briefing

Welcome to your weekly South Carolina politics briefing, a newsletter curated by The State’s politics and government team.

Hope you and your family had a happy Thanksgiving! And if you’re out shopping taking advantage of Black Friday deals, have fun! Just make sure you stick to your budget, no matter what it is.

SC teacher vacancies on the rise

South Carolina’s annual educator supply and demand survey dropped last week and the findings were bleak.

A record 1,474 teacher and school-based service positions were vacant to start the 2022 school year, according to the survey conducted by the Center for Educator Recruitment, Retention and Advancement.

That’s a nearly 40% increase in vacancies since last year and a 165% spike over the last three years, as an increasing number of educators fed up with pay, working conditions and political rhetoric leave the profession.

As more teachers leave, the problems that drove many of them to retire or consider other career options only get exacerbated.

“It’s a self-fulfilling cycle that as vacancy rates increase, the teachers that remain are asked to do even more,” said Patrick Kelly, director of governmental affairs for the Palmetto State Teachers Association. “Without a shock to the system to break the cycle, the cycle starts to feed on itself.”

Breaking the cycle won’t be easy, but advocates say there are things political leaders can do.

It begins, Kelly said, with putting an end to the attacks on teachers and the education establishment over its purported “indoctrination” of students, which have left teachers feeling discouraged, disheartened and constantly under siege.

Beyond that, the state must further increase teacher pay and improve working conditions if it wants to stop losing educators to the private sector, advocates said.

In addition to the surge in teacher vacancies created by a record number of departures, the CERRA report also found a rise in teacher transfers – a sign that teachers are “shopping around” for districts with more supports in place – and a decline in recent college graduates joining the state’s teaching ranks.

“Young people don’t want to be teachers,” South Carolina Education Association President Sherry East said. “They see the time that it’s gonna take and they see the money they’re gonna make” and decide to pursue other options.

A governor-led task force created earlier this year to study what’s driving teachers from classrooms is expected to play a significant role in determining the state’s next steps in addressing the teacher shortage crisis.

Coming Sunday: SC education officials will ask lawmakers next year to raise teacher and bus driver pay

A record 1,474 teacher and school-based service positions were vacant to start the 2022 school year, according to the survey conducted by the Center for Educator Recruitment, Retention and Advancement.
A record 1,474 teacher and school-based service positions were vacant to start the 2022 school year, according to the survey conducted by the Center for Educator Recruitment, Retention and Advancement.

New House budget chairman

The Upstate is set to get another budget chairman.

Greenville County Republican Bruce Bannister is in line to become the House Ways and Means chairman when the House holds its organizational session next month.

Bannister has been on Ways and Means for four years and will oversee how the House wants to distribute $3.5 billion worth of new money available to lawmakers during the budget process. He previously served as House Majority leader from 2012 to 2016.

Bannister’s Senate counterpart, Finance Chairman Harvey Peeler is from Cherokee County, giving the Upstate more influence in how state dollars are spent.

“Yes, Harvey and I are in the Upstate,” Bannister said. “Neither one of us are naive (to believe) that the entire state isn’t really reliant on each other. We’re too small to be parochial.”

The race had been between Bannister and state Rep. Bill Herbkersman, R-Beaufort, who told The State he ultimately dropped out because the he couldn’t commit to the time needed for the role.

How committee assignments and chairmanships work out in the House will be finalized next month. And from what we’re hearing, it’s a bit of musical chairs. With more than two dozen new members and at least six seats on Ways and Means open, many members may be seeking to move to new committees.

Rep. Mark Willis, left, talks with Rep. Bruce Bannister during a House of Representatives session in Columbia, S.C. on Tuesday, March 29, 2022. (Travis Bell/STATEHOUSE CAROLINA)
Rep. Mark Willis, left, talks with Rep. Bruce Bannister during a House of Representatives session in Columbia, S.C. on Tuesday, March 29, 2022. (Travis Bell/STATEHOUSE CAROLINA)

Buzz Bites

Nikki Haley, while speaking to the Republican Jewish Coalition Annual Leadership Meeting, said she’s never lost an election and that “it’s time for a younger generation to lead.”

President Joe Biden approved a federal disaster declaration for South Carolina so the state can receive federal money to help pay for emergency work and recovery efforts from Hurricane Ian.

Federal sharpshooters recently killed 45 hogs at Congaree National Park to stop pollution and damage to natural resources.

Sarah Timmons, the wife of U.S. Rep. William Timmons, R-Greenville, has filed for divorce after three years of marriage, the Post and Courier reports.

Sen. Lindsey Graham finally testified in front to a Georgia grand jury investigating efforts to overturn the 2020 election after spending months fighting a subpoena to answer questions.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., walks on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Nov. 15, 2022. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)
Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., walks on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Nov. 15, 2022. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

Mark your calendar

Nov. 29

Closing arguments in federal court over redistricting of SC’s US House map

Nikki Haley speaks at Clemson at event hosted by Turning Point USA

Dec. 6-7

SC House organizational session

Jan. 5

SC Supreme Court hears arguments over state’s execution methods

Jan. 10

2023 SC legislative session starts

Jan. 11

Inauguration Day

An airplane flies over the South Carolina State House during the inauguration ceremony for Henry McMaster. 1/9/19
An airplane flies over the South Carolina State House during the inauguration ceremony for Henry McMaster. 1/9/19

Before we adjourn

The first Alex Murdaugh-related trial wrapped up Tuesday night when a jury convicted banker Russell Laffitte of federal fraud charges after a three-week trial.

The former South Carolina bank CEO was found guilty on six counts of conspiracy, bank and wire fraud and misapplication of bank funds after a jury deliberated for nearly 11 hours.

He was accused of conspiring with Murdaugh to commit numerous acts of bank and wire fraud and illegally spend or extended more than $1.8 million in bank money on Murdaugh’s behalf.

Lafitte, whose sentencing has yet to be scheduled, is likely to appeal the verdict.

“None of this would have happened without Alex Murdaugh, but none of it could have happened without the defendant,” federal prosecutor Emily Limehouse told the jury in her 70-minute closing argument, marked by an effortless recall of hundreds of details in the complex case.

Former Palmetto State Bank CEO Russell Laffitte walks to the Charleston federal courthouse on Wednesday, Nov. 16, 2022.
Former Palmetto State Bank CEO Russell Laffitte walks to the Charleston federal courthouse on Wednesday, Nov. 16, 2022.

Pulling the newsletter together this week was Joseph Bustos, reporter on the The State’s politics and state government team. You can keep up with him on Twitter and send him tips on Twitter at @JoeBReporter or by email jbustos@thestate.com.

To stay on top of South Carolina politics and election news, you can chat with us on Facebook, email us tips and follow our stories at scpolitics.com.