January 12, 2022
Senate Education Subcommittee
Unencumbered Time – Proponent Testimony
Chair Setzler and members of the Senate Education Subcommittee,
Thank you for this opportunity to provide testimony in favor of legislation to guarantee daily unencumbered time for South Carolina educators. I believe this proposed legislation is a great step forward, and with some changes, could be a measure that begins to address the educator shortage crisis.
A lack of daily unencumbered time is a topic that consistently comes up in discussions with educators considering leaving the profession in our state.
Unencumbered time relates to the heavy workload on our educators. In order to meet the workload, teachers report they can only do so if they come in early, stay late, and work on weekends and unpaid holidays—often missing important time with their own family. They need time during the day to address these aspects of their work such as calling parents, grading, collaborating, etc.
A lack of unencumbered time creates unhealthy working conditions for our teachers. Unlike many surrounding and competing states South Carolina educators often have no break during the day; some are not even able to use the restroom. Educators often have to call or text the office just to go to the restroom. Also, the teaching workforce is largely comprised of women who have health and hygiene issues they need to address on a monthly basis or as new mothers.
There are changes we believe could make the bill even stronger. We would like every teacher—not just elementary teachers (K-5 in bill) —to have protected time during the day. We would also like more information about what sorts of penalties will result if districts don’t comply and what constitutes noncompliance. We hope any penalties are strong enough to deter districts from taking unencumbered time.
In addition, sometimes there are cases where it could be beneficial for an employee to be compensated for losing unencumbered time, as long as the employee agrees without pressure or reprisal and the practice isn’t used consistently in a building as a loophole for offering protected time.
In addition to 30 minutes of unencumbered time free from duty like S.946, The SCEA is in favor of dedicated planning time for teachers to accomplish instructional planning, grading, calling parents, collaborating with fellow educators on their team or in their department, etc. The House passed H.3465, and we would like to see the Senate Education Committee bring this bill for discussion.
Thank you again for your consideration of this legislation for daily unencumbered time. We look forward to working with you further on this issue. I am available for any questions you may have.