New scholarship hopes to keep teachers in New Hanover County public schools

Noah Thomas

A ranking by WalletHub placed North Carolina 50th of 51 United States territories for best states to work in as a public school teacher. This ranking may have deterred prospective teachers from seeking employment in North Carolina, however New Hanover County has plans to combat this negative image.

Approved by New Hanover’s Board of Education in the previous weeks, the county will award four in-state tuition scholarships per year of up to $7,000 through a selection process.

“The scholarship loan is based on the conditions that each recipient will obtain an N.C. teaching license in four years, and within seven years of receiving a license teach full-time in New Hanover County Schools for one year for each year a scholarship was awarded,” said Hannah Delacourt of StarNews Online.

While the announcement of these scholarships comes at a great time, the approval process has been going on for several months. Wilmington’s StarNews first reported the possibility of these scholarships on May 1.

“The whole idea was just to get it off the ground and get it started,” said Ed Higgins, chairman of the school board’s finance committee, to StarNews Online. “Over the coming years, we would expect to have a steady flow of teachers.”

The means of providing financial assistance to future teachers have been few and far between since the elimination of the Teaching Fellows program in 2011.

Teaching Fellows, which provided four-year scholarships to prospective teachers and encouraged others to enter the profession, was established in 1986 by the General Assembly of North Carolina under the administration of Governor Jim Martin.

The program was cut in 2011 and funding ending for good this past spring. In nearly 30 years, the program allowed 11,000 students to participate. Around 8,500 of those students graduated, with nearly 80 percent of those teachers staying in the classroom after a four-year program requirement, as told by The News&Observer.

Other statistics from the Teaching Fellows include a total value of $253.1 million in scholarships, according to StarNews Online.

However, this new scholarship opportunity does not guarantee a boost in the number of young teachers. With all of its benefits, this new system may only be a short-term solution to a long-term problem.

Kendall Thompson, a UNCW sophomore and education major, said she likes the idea, but is also curious as to what happens after the new teachers have taught for four years.

“I feel that in the long term the scholarship system will not pay off because yes, it may attract potential teachers initially, but what happens when their four years are up?” Thompson said. “Will they stay in North Carolina? Or New Hanover County?”

Thompson was curious as to whether or not young teachers will “up and leave to the next best opportunity: a state with higher and steadier teacher salaries?”

Thompson believes that the emphasis should go to teacher salaries, which should provide teachers with the financial means to stay in North Carolina and sustain themselves.