Teacher shortage prompts push to fund master’s degrees

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JEFFERSON COUNTY, Ark. — A teacher shortage at several Jefferson County school districts prompts a plan to fund master’s degrees for staff.

The initiative is backed by Go Forward Pine Bluff and funded by donations. The goal is to give qualified teachers an incentive to work in one of the districts.

“There’s a reason teachers are certified, they give you the best chance of providing the best education for students,” explained Go Forward Pine Bluff CEO Ryan Watley.

Teachers in the Dollarway, White Hall and Pine Bluff districts are eligible to apply. They’ll be given degree options from the University of Arkansas at either the Pine Bluff, Monticello, or Little Rock campuses.

Watley plans to give funding to at least 10 teachers this year, in hopes the program will continue to grow.

“Imagine this all the teachers in our district have master’s degrees,” he added.

Pine Bluff Superintendent Dr. Jeremy Owoh says the biggest problem his district faces is retaining teachers. This plan will require recipients to work in their chosen district for at least three years after getting their graduate diploma.

“It’s a win-win for the district and students. We keep teachers who are trained and students get teachers with advanced degrees,” he said.

The deadline to apply for a degree is July 15.

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