AIKEN - Pat Logue, a fourth-grade teacher at Hammond Hill Elementary School, spent more than two years working to get her National Board Certification and the $7,500-per-year raise that comes with it.
But if that 10-year pay bump is eliminated - as South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford proposes in his 2004-05 budget - Mrs. Logue said she could be one of the last teachers to go through the long process that involves videotaped lessons and typed essays.
"It's so much work, and it takes up a lot of time. I think if that incentive to get it goes away, then I don't see many teachers that will try to get it," she said. "I think most teachers do it because of the money."
Mrs. Logue was one of 16 teachers recognized by the Aiken County school board Tuesday night for successfully completing the demanding program.
"That incentive has proven to be an extremely effective tool to get high-quality teachers into the classroom," Dr. Frank Roberson, associate superintendent for instruction for Aiken County, said as he addressed the school board Tuesday night.
In his proposed budget, Mr. Sanford wants to eliminate the teacher incentive and the $2,500 reimbursement given to teachers to cover the cost of the certification course. The resulting $4.6 million in savings would be added to the money the state pays to educate each public school pupil.
Those teachers who complete the certification program by December 2004 would be the last to get the 10-year bonus. Mr. Sanford could cut incentives at a time when both federal and state requirements force teachers to have more credentials.
"There is a balance you have to strike to motivate teachers and deal with budget cuts," said Will Folks, spokesman for the governor. "The governor looks at every dollar to make sure we are getting the maximum bang for our buck."
Teachers say that is a mistake and pupils will suffer.
"Right now we have to pay $2,500 to apply to get into the program, and if we pass, the state reimburses us," said Phyllis Gantt, a social studies teacher at Wagener-Salley High School. "But if I have to pay, knowing that I won't get reimbursed, I don't see how any teacher could afford to have any interest in it."
Five years ago, when no incentive was offered, only five teachers in the state bothered to get the national certification, said Jim Foster, spokesman for the South Carolina Department of Education. South Carolina now has 3,230 certified teachers, one of the highest certification rates, along with Georgia and Florida. Georgia offers a 10 percent salary increase as an incentive.
Certified Teachers: 3,230
Certified in 2003: 864
Incentive: $7,500-per-year raise for 10 years
Certified Teachers: 1,300
Certified in 2003: 513
Incentive: 10 percent salary increase
Reach Peter G. Gilchrist at (803) 648-1395.