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Newport schools’ Tuition Reimbursement Program for teachers is paying dividends for the district

Newport Intermediate School fourth grade math teacher Katie Chalfant had always wanted to return to college after receiving her bachelor’s degree to continue her education.

However, the notion of taking of more student debt was just too daunting.

Katie Chalfant

But after the Newport Independent School District launched a Tuition Reimbursement Program for teachers, Chalfant received a master’s degree in education from The University of the Cumberlands and nearly $5,900 in tuition reimbursement from the Newport Independent Schools.

“When Newport implemented this tuition reimbursement program, I jumped on it immediately,” Chalfant said. “The Teacher Leader courses that I took have absolutely grown me as a teacher and have helped prepare me for whatever my next steps may be in the professional world of education. Without the tuition reimbursement program, I would most likely still be contemplating the decision to go back to school and be nervous about the impact it might have on me financially.”

Chalfant is one of 19 Newport teachers who have received nearly $200,000 through the district’s innovative Tuition Reimbursement Program.

The goal of the program is to recruit and retain teachers while providing financial support and appreciation for teachers seeking to enhance their education credentials and skills.

Tony Watts, superintendent

“We want to show our appreciation and help our teachers pursue their educational advancement,” said Newport Independent Schools Superintendent Tony Watts. “What better way to do this than give them financial support?”

“This program allows our teachers to take the necessary classes without worrying about where they will get the money,” Superintendent Watts said. “In many cases, people don’t advance their education because of finances. The tuition reimbursement program takes away that barrier.”

Veteran Newport teacher Shane Campbell, who has been with the district for nine years and currently is a kindergarten-second grade teacher in the Project Lead the Way program, completed a master’s degree from Northern Kentucky University. Without the tuition reimbursement of about $4,300, returning to school may not have been possible.

Shane Campbell

“The Tuition Reimbursement Program was most helpful in alleviating much of the financial burden that comes with continuing education at the graduate level,” said Campbell, who has also taught kindergarten and second-grade classes. “The program provided full confidence in looking ahead to completing my program, knowing that I wouldn’t have to worry about incompletion due to financial insecurities.”

Newport teachers qualify for the program in their first-year teaching in Newport and can be reimbursed up to $18,000 for tuition. Reimbursements are distributed each semester. To qualify teachers must maintain a “B” average for the semester and pledge to stay with the district for five years after their last reimbursement.

Campbell said he also believes that the program can be an effective tool for recruiting and retaining teachers.

Teachers and student (Fresno Pacific University photo)

“It’s a great benefit for teachers to take advantage of for direct application of new concepts and skills alongside their everyday teaching in the classroom,” he said. “It’s encouraging to know the support and finances are available for such professional growth.”

According to research conducted and reviewed by Fresno Pacific University, the country is short about 118,000 teachers and that number is projected to grow to 200,000 in just the next three years. In Kentucky, the number has varied in recent years from 2,000 to 5,000 open positions, according to the Kentucky Department of Education and media reports.

The reasons for the shortage – which has loomed for several years – are varied and include larger class sizes, lower pay than other professions, fewer people entering teaching and concerns and stress brought on by the coronavirus pandemic.

Newport Intermediate School teacher Emily Kenner is using her $7,500 in tuition reimbursement to become a specialist in educational leadership with a focus on curriculum and instruction.

“The tuition reimbursement program is so beneficial to those of us who want to continue our education while also teaching,” Kenner said, “Being a teacher is hard, being a student is hard and being a teacher trying to pay for another degree is even harder. Newport Independent Schools taking this burden off my plate is incredible.”

Newport’s Tuition Reimbursement Program motivated fourth-grade reading and writing teacher Molly Turner to earn her Master of Art Literacy degree from the University of Cumberlands in May of 2021.

“This opportunity not only saves teachers money upfront, but also allows them to earn more year to year,” Turner said. “As a young teacher, this is an opportunity I am fortunate to take part in.”

Newport Independent School District

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One Comment

  1. J says:

    This is a great program which should be a model for all of Kentucky’s school districts. We need to do everything possible to attract and retain teachers.

    The General Assembly has weakened the teachers’ retirement system and underfunded schools, so it’s commendable when a local district can find resources to encourage teachers.

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