05/04/05 — Commission will keep teacher scholarship

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Commission will keep teacher scholarship

By Barbara Arntsen
Published in News on May 4, 2005 1:50 PM

Wayne County Commis-sioners decided Tuesday to continue funding a scholarship program designed to lure top students back to the county to teach.

Commissioners initiated the county-funded teacher scholarship program in 2000, but they have recently been wondering about its effectiveness.

However, last week they learned that the county was getting more than a 60 percent return rate on its investment. That is the percentage of students receiving the scholarship money who have returned to the county to teach, school officials said.

"The Wayne County Teacher Scholarship recipients who are currently teaching in the Wayne County Public Schools are filling critical needs in the elementary, middle and high schools," Olivia Pierce told commissioners last week.

Ms. Pierce is executive director for community relations for the Wayne County schools.

Eight scholarships are funded annually through the program. Four of the scholarships pay for two years of study at Wayne Community College and two years at a four-year institution. Tuition at Wayne Community is $1,200 per year, and $5,000 a year for two years at a four-year college.

Three of the eight scholarships pay for a full four years at an in-state public university, at $5,000 per year.

The final scholarship provides $8,000 per year, for four years, for a student to attend an in-state private university.

After teaching in Wayne County Public Schools for five years, the scholarship "loan" is forgiven.

If a recipient does not come back to teach in Wayne, or does not finish his or her education, he or she must repay the money.

Five students who received scholarships are already teaching, and six more are ready to begin teaching in the fall, Ms. Pierce said.

County Manager Lee Smith told the commissioners Tuesday that the program currently costs about $140,000 a year, and would cost an additional $27,000 to fund next year.

Commissioner Atlas Price said he thought the original idea was to match tax dollars with private investments.

Price said the county should stay involved in the scholarship for a while longer, but that he believes it should ultimately be funded through private business.

"I think it's borderline as to whether we should be involved," Price said.

Commissioner Andy Anderson said the objective is to get teachers in Wayne County.

Commissioner Jack Best said the question is whether the 60 percent return rate is considered a success.

"Is that good or bad?" he asked.

Smith said that the school board believes that percentage is a good rate of return.

"There's a teacher shortage right now, and I think it would be inappropriate to pull out," Commissioner Chairman J.D. Evans said. "Sixty percent is awfully good. Let's fund it for one more year, and evaluate it."

"After five years, it isn't time to eliminate the Wayne County Teacher Scholarship program," Ms. Pierce said, "but it may be time to review the program and to make adjustments as needed."