UNION COUNTY — The Union County School District will use approximately $200,000 in state funding to help recruit and retain teachers by providing them with financial assistance if they seek their Master’s Degrees.
The Union County Board of School Trustees voted unanimously Monday to approve a recommendation by Superintendent Dr. David Eubanks that the district implement a “Master’s Degree Reimbursement Program.”
Eubanks explained the program would be for teachers who are seeking their Master’s Degrees. He described the program as an important step forward in recruiting and retaining younger teachers and encouraging them to continue their education.
Finance Director Lynn Lawson addressed the board about the funding of the program. Lawson said that the reimbursement program will be funded by the State of South Carolina. He said that some school districts in the state had filed a class action lawsuit against the state over funding for rural school districts. Lawson said that a court had recently ruled that the state had to reply to the suit and remedy the situation in question. To do that, Lawson said that the state is allocating $9 million for school readiness with the funds being divided between the districts that filed the suit and those districts that meet the criteria of an 80 percent poverty rate.
While the Union County School District was not part of the suit, Lawson said it did meet the 80 percent poverty rate based on the number of free and reduced lunches it serves. He said that as a result the district will receive approximately $200,000 which it can use to fund the Master’s Degree Reimbursement Program.
Lawson said that he does not know for certain whether or not the state will continue the funding next year. However, he said that the situation addressed in the suit against the state is not something that will fixed in just one year. He said that because of that he believes the funding will likely continue for some time although he could not say for certain how much it would be from year to year.
The program comes with the following guidlines:
1. The program may be discontinued without prior notice. Continuation of the program will be dependent on State revenue. In the event that funding is depleted during a fiscal year, reimbursement will not be made until the next fiscal year. In the event that revenue is discontinued completely, reimbursement will end when funds are totally depleted.
2. Reimbursement will be more for a Master’s degree in the field of teaching, a high or critical needs area, a related field or an area approved by the Director of Personnel. Programs not in an approved area will not be reimbursed.
3. Degree must be from an approved college or university — NO diploma mills.
4. Reimbursement will be for a grade of A or B. No advance payment will be made.
5. There will be an obligation to Union County Schools of five years upon completion of the degree. In the event that the five year obligation is not met, a penalty of $2,000 per year of incomplete obligation will be deducted from the final compensation. For those who have already earned hours in an approved program prior to entry into the reimbursement program, the five year requirement will be pro-rated based on graduate hours reimbursed.
6. In the event that a contracted cohort program with a college or university is offered, the same obligation will remain with the employee for a $2,000 per year of incomplete obligation.
7. An employee who leaves service prior to the completion of the degree will be obligated for $2,000 for each six hours of credit earned at district expense.
8. An application for the program must be completed and approved by the director of personnel and student services prior to any reimbursement.
9. All books and materials are the expense of the student and not reimbursable.
10. Only courses completed after July 1, 2016 will be reimbursable.
11. Any course begun while in a cohort and not completed within the same cohort class must be paid for at the expense of the student at the time of reenrollment into the same course as that not completed.
Charles Warner can be reached at 864-762-4090.