S.C. Teacher Strike May Be More About ‘The Benjamins’ Than Little Benny

Jon Butzon

By Barney Blakeney

Criticizing teachers who last week organized the strike that saw some 10,000 people converge at the S.C. Statehouse to advocate for teachers and students might be like criticizing mom, apple pie and the American way – the push back could be overwhelming. But though everybody loves a teacher, there’s good and bad in everything, even the teaching profession. I asked some in the education profession their thoughts.

Not everyone felt comfortable going on record with their comments. One Charleston County School Board member said although teachers are tying-in smaller classroom sizes and more access to mental health care to their argument for higher pay, “It’s all about the money,” the board member said. “We’re talking about employees whose starting salary is $38,000 annually, who get every federal holiday and many state holidays off, get two months off each year, get incentives to work in certain schools and get generous benefits. And teachers who work in certain schools get their college debt forgiven.”

Another education professional scrutinized teacher uprisings in South Carolina noting conditions that adversely affect students in the state have existed for decades. South Carolina consistently ranks among the lowest states nationally in education, she said. And its 19-school-district ‘Corridor of Shame’ has remained a political and judicial football some 20 years. She sees South Carolina’s teacher uprising more as national lockstep than student advocacy.

S.C. State Board of Education member and former Charleston Education Network Executive Director Jon Butzon was equally candid. South Carolina teachers will get a raise, Butzon confided, but not all of them deserve it. “Giving teachers a raise is the popular way to go, but when everyone gets the same raise, our best teachers get the same raise as our worst teachers. There’s no way that can work positively,” he said.

Like the solid ‘blue wall’ in law enforcement solidarity among teachers is dependable, Butzon said. Teachers are reluctant to voice discrepancies in their profession. So the variance between good and bad teachers in classrooms next to each other at a given school often is more pronounced than the variance between high performing and low performing schools in the district.

“There still is a talent problem in classrooms. We don’t have all the talent we need in classrooms,” Butzon continued. “The problem is we’ll give raises, but likely won’t see any improvement in student performance. At some point we have to address the quality of the teachers in the classrooms.”


  1. Peter Smyth on May 17, 2019 at 3:47 pm

    Jon Butzon has no credibility in education. He’s a gadfly.
    And the anonymous board member (Todd Garrett?) May have less.

  2. Jackie on May 18, 2019 at 6:48 am

    Educators and education supporters have to VOTE to get everyone that doesn’t support smaller class sizes , less standardized testing and money for students out. That is the only way things will change. This is the thought process of so many with no direct classroom connection….. It’s simply sad. So much “talent” is lost to other careers because those that truly measure themselves by their impact leave the profession because it’s become nearly impossible, in some places, to make that impact due to conditions. VOTE for education friends! That’s what will truly be heard.

  3. Katie Nicholson on May 19, 2019 at 1:04 pm

    Why I am not surprised that another politician is clueless about the education profession. Excellent benefits, dream on buddy! 2 months off in the summer …not in my 30 years! I have always had to work in the summer.

  4. Mike Smith on May 19, 2019 at 1:04 pm

    This is tripe at its best. This was written by someone who has most likely never set foot in a classroom and been a teacher. Holidays off, 2 months summer “vacation,” incentives to work at certain schools (please elaborate, sir), and a whopping $38K per year? Try this on for size: a student in your class doesn’t like the grade you gave them on an essay and they explode, calling you an SOB racist bully. You send him to the admins with a referral (this is way beyond classroom management). Forty-five minutes later he returns with his silly smirking grin and a lunch detention and you’re stuck with him. Why only lunch detention? Because the admins don’t want to have to deal with mommy when she comes in raising cane and that “you’re picking on her son.” The school board doesn’t want to hear it either. Maybe consider this one: your student failed her exam and now will fail the course. She asks for a “do over” and you refuse. She then asks what kind of car you drive; where do you live. You document this conversation for a “just in case” future time. Two days later your car is keyed and you report it along with your documentation to the admins and the police. Nothing is done and you’re told to give the exam re-do. You’re a 12 year teaching veteran making $38K a year and Mr. Blakeney you think that’s acceptable? I’m retired after 38 years and I can say without reservation or fear of reprimand that you’re woefully out of touch with reality.

  5. Mrs S on May 19, 2019 at 2:08 pm

    I can respect his stance and being brave enough to tack his name onto it.

    What I don’t respect is…”I don’t agree with this, but I’m going to give them a raise anyways. “

    What?! If you don’t believe in the raise, then don’t vote for it or whatever. But to give the raise anyways despite believing it won’t work, that makes you look like an idiot.

  6. Sally Hartgrove on May 19, 2019 at 2:49 pm

    I retired last May. Not because I was ready to but I had had enough with not being compensated for my work. Because of the step system in SC I came into the state close to the top of my ladder. I did not receive a raise in the final 10 years of my career, 1/4 of my time. I came back to SC via another state where I did not have to pay state income tax or into the SS system. I took a cut in basic salary here and then had to pay those things out of my salary. I was retired when this movement began but I would have joined in. I was finally close to my salary from the other state 4 years in but paying more out every month. Not only did I not have a raise for 10 years, I also payed more for insurance and taxes (most years) so yes, it was partly about the money. But I came here from a state that, at the time, capped K-5th grade at 22 students. That is very manageable. My first K class here had 28 students. That is unreal for both the teachers and the students.

    I am sorry these people in power have such a one sided view. Class size is important. Mental heath services are important, Support for our special needs children is crucial. Full funding for our schools is crucial!
    Yes, salary by itself is not the most important aspect of this movement but given all of the other things going on, it too should be crucial for a school system in crisis. One of you said you don’t think we have the people teaching here who are of the caliber we need. Seriously. Would you take a job for less pay in a field that doesn’t appreciate that you are a product of that industry. (Yes, I graduated from SC public schools!. I did not graduate from a SC university!)

  7. B Laird on May 19, 2019 at 6:10 pm

    If teachers have it so good, why is there a shortage even in so called good schools? A little logic please.

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