We have collectively visited dozens of schools across the state through our work with Student Voice to talk with students and their teachers. While physical conditions of South Carolina’s public schools differ drastically, the one constant is its dedicated teachers. From Marion to York Counties, teachers do far more than create lesson plans and grade tests and papers: every day teachers are raising and inspiring the next generation of young people, with little recognition or thanks in return. We know that teachers are the single most important determinant of student success, yet our state ranks 47th in teacher pay.
On May 1st, teachers plan to gather at the state house to demand mental health resources for students, increased pay for teachers, smaller class sizes, and an end to the teacher shortage, all factors that directly, negatively impact the experience of students in school and stem from a legislature that has never prioritized or fully funded public education in South Carolina.
Those opposed to this day of action have claimed that teachers are “walking out” on their students. They want others to believe that by standing for public education, teachers are standing against their students’ best interests. We, five proud graduates of the South Carolina public education system who have spent a combined 28,000 hours in South Carolina public high schools, see their actions for what they truly are: a commitment to the young people of South Carolina. For that we say, thank you, teachers.
We know that you deserve far more than your current paycheck as you share not only your expertise and teaching every day, but your emotional labor to support us, always. Our state says that our education need only be minimally adequate, but you give everything of yourselves every day to ensure we receive more than that. You see beyond our struggles and weaknesses to find our potential and activate the passions that we, ourselves, do not know that we have. You become our mentors, confidants, counselors, and parental figures, willing to take on any role necessary to support us without an expectation of receiving anything in return. We hope May 1st marks the beginning of that changing.
Thank you for showing us what it looks like to use your voice and stand up for what you believe in. In class, you teach us about world-famous leaders and large-scale movements, but it is through your actions each day that we learn how to live and lead with grace, empathy, and passion. Your actions today inspire and show us that no action is too small, that we have a responsibility to stand up for what is right, and that we each possess in us the ability to create change.
We, South Carolina students, stand in solidarity with every teacher across the state fighting to reclaim educational excellence and equity in the Palmetto state. #AllOutMay1 is exactly the action South Carolina students need and deserve. For too long, students have felt the effects of a public education system long abandoned by our state’s political leaders. Today, our teachers, who taught us so much, are standing up and telling truth to power. It’s time for South Carolina to invest in its teachers, the trailblazers who make valuable investments in their students day in and day out. It’s time for South Carolina to embrace authentic education reform that is driven by the real-life experiences of students and teachers, those who fight with every fiber of their being for the livelihood of our state with every second that they prioritize South Carolina’s public education.
#AllOutMay1 is just the beginning. We will be beside you all every step of the way because we know all that has been achieved and all that can be achieved when our public schools and our teachers receive the resources they deserve.
Joshua Dantzler, Ebone Ivory, Taylor Kahn-Perry, Merrit Jones, and Megan Simmons are undergraduate students who work for the all student-led nonprofit Student Voice. They each began their advocacy work in South Carolina and now work nationally to ensure that students have the right to hold educational institutions accountable to them as partners in shaping their foundational experiences.
About Student Voice
Student Voice is a by-students, for-students 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that works in all 50 states to equip students as storytellers, organizers and institutional partners who advocate for student-driven solutions to educational inequity. Through direct civic action, Student Voice helps students hold their schools and surrounding communities accountable to the Student Bill of Rights and prepares them to become lifelong agents of social and political change. For more information about Student Voice, visit our website at StuVoice.org and follow @Stu_Voice and #StuVoice on social media.