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South Carolina Public Radio's offices will be closed Monday, May 27, in observance of the Memorial Day holiday. Our local news and programming will return Tuesday, May 28.

What's Next? After Historic Rally, Work Continues to Keep Teachers, Parents Informed

Wednesday’s All Out May 1 Day of Reflection drew 10,000 people to the state house in Columbia.  The organization responsible, for what some are calling an historic event, is less than a year old. SCForEd was created May 30, 2018 by Lisa Ellis.

“She was really frustrated and just wasn't sure she wanted to stay in the profession,” SCForEd board member Paige Steele said.

“So she created a closed Facebook group and invited some of her friends; and they started inviting people and it just grew exponentially.”

In five months, the closed Facebook group added over 20,000 members. Almost a year later, SCForEd would experience another unexpected growth.

“We thought we were dreaming big, when we said 5,000 people. And that's where we had our original goal.”

We thought we were dreaming big, when we said 5,000 people

The Monday before the rally, SCForEd reported 4100 people had completed the online registration for the event. The morning of the event, the organization reported that number had grown to 6700. The official number of particpants was 10,000.

“It was just so awe-inspiring and humbling to see so many people feel empowered enough to come together and have a collective voice for education and support,” Steele said.

VOICES: Why They Marched

"We need this" Educator Katie  shares
Credit Thelisha Eaddy/ SC Public Radio
"We need this" Educator Katie shares
Sumter County first grade teacher Cathy Kirsten on why she rallied.

Seven school districts made the decision to close Wednesday. In an email to parents, Richland School District Two, one of the state’s largest, cited safety and security for its decision.

Unfortunately, on Tuesday afternoon the number of requested absences reached a point that any last-minute absences would undermine our ability to provide adequate coverage at our schools. Therefore, we can no longer ensure that the school day could proceed in a safe and secure manner with minimum disruption.

Although Wednesday’s rally drew large numbers, there were some who didn't agree with teachers leaving the classroom to express their concerns. These included Governor Henry McMaster and State Superintendent of Education Molly Spearman. In a statement, Spearman said she would not be with teachers on Wednesday, but instead in a classroom.

Teachers from Dorchester School District Two
Credit Thelisha Eaddy/ SC Public Radio
Teachers from Dorchester School District Two
I will not be joining those teachers who decide to walk out on their classrooms. Instead, I will be walking into the classroom of an absent teacher to serve as a substitute. I am not doing this to help facilitate the walkout, but rather to do all I can to ensure as many students as possible receive the instruction they deserve.

When referencing elected officials and law makers, Steele said she wants people to understand where teachers are coming from.

“I was just hoping that everyone understands that the intent is to make education better for students; and that we really want to work to have true positive perform,” Steele said. 

To help bring that reform to fruition, members of the organization will, again this summer, do a lot of traveling. 

“I know that we already have plans to spend some time this summer getting back on the road; going town to town, seeing teachers and helping them feel empowered to use their voice.”

Thursday, schools districts returned to their normal operating schedules. As the excitement of the All Out May 1 Day of Reflection begins to fade from headlines, Steele said it is important for South Carolinians to remember that their movement is not just for teachers.

“We went into this cause, because we want to make it better. And I think the only way to do that is to have full community support.”

She said the goal now is to keep people informed and to stay in touch with representatives.