South Carolina’s Growing Classroom Size

By Paul Bowers

South Carolina stopped enforcing its size limits on most public school classrooms in 2010, bowing to the financial pressures of the Great Recession.

Nearly nine years later, the state still does not enforce those limits.

The teachers have noticed.

“Right now, it feels like in order to save money people put as many students in a classroom as they can,” said Dottie Adams, a science teacher at Hand Middle School in Columbia. 

By most measures, classroom sizes across South Carolina started to grow during the global economic recession that began in late 2007, and the sizes continued to grow as the tax-averse state legislature failed to fund its own education mandates.

Some indicators show classrooms are starting to shrink slowly, but veteran teachers say it’s been a long, difficult slog. Teachers’ workloads still have not returned to pre-recession levels. Adding insult to injury, South Carolina teacher salaries have not kept up with inflation, so teachers are effectively earning less now than they did in 2008.

Between 2008 and 2018, the number of schools where the average classroom size exceeded 28 students per teacher almost doubled to 110 from 60, according to state report card data. Most of those classrooms were in high schools, although at least 32 elementary schools have passed that threshold since 2010.

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