FCSD reverses MOU’s exclusions

WINNSBORO – Another alteration has been made to the Fairfield County Promise Program, which aims to allow Fairfield students to attend college at Midlands Technical College at no cost to them. 

At the Nov. 19 meeting, the school district’s board of trustees voted on a second amended Memorandum of Understanding, or MOU, that clarifies eligibility requirements for students. Now the program extends tuition assistance to “eligible citizens of Fairfield County,” not just students who graduated from Fairfield County School District. 

The newly revised document defines “eligible citizens” as persons who have “graduated from an eligible Fairfield County public high school, charter school, private school, or home school program.”

Board trustees voted 6-0 to approve. Trustee Paula Hartman abstained.

November’s vote to revise the MOU comes following a report by The Voice that a previously amended MOU left scholarship availability up in the air for students not part of the Fairfield County public school system. 

That previous revision, made by the school board at the October meeting, indicated that it was the county’s responsibility to fund Promise Program tuition for private, charter and home school students.

That agreement stated, under Student Eligibility: “Must be a Fairfield County resident with a valid high school diploma (or GED) from Fairfield County School District,” with no mention of funding for the private, charter and homeschooled students.

Asked by The Voice why the district had decided to limit its funding to Fairfield County School District students, Green replied via email, “The Promise Initiative still accommodates charter school, home school and private school students in the county.  As you know there are now two separate agreements with MTC.  One with the county and one with the school district.  Funding for those students is covered in the county MOU.”

The next day, Green said he would present a revised MOU to the board at the November meeting.

While Green confirmed at the November meeting, “There were some students left out of our MOU,” Board chairman William Frick said it was never the district’s intention to leave out non-public school students.

“It was an oversight. I didn’t catch it going through it (the MOU),” Frick said. “I didn’t think anyone thought we didn’t have those folks in there. I’ve had some questions about why that happened. It was simply an oversight.”

The revisions approved at the November meeting don’t impact verbiage added in October spelling out the addition of an endowment to help fund Promise Program scholarships.

Green has said an endowment creates tax benefits for businesses that want to contribute to the Promise Program. The district can also use interest earned to subsidize the program, he said.

The Promise Program originated as a three-way partnership between Midlands Technical College, Fairfield County and the Fairfield County School District to provide free tuition to students who met academic and residential requirements.

As originally envisioned, the county and school district would each kick in $75,000 to fund the $150,000 program, which would allow qualifying students to register for tuition free classes at Midlands Technical College’s Winnsboro campus.

Separate county and school district MOUs now exist because the county built in additional accountability measures not found within the school district document.

Essentially, the county has said it wants to disperse money upon request instead of in lump sum annual payments.

The County submitted its contract to MTC last July. MTC approved that contract in late November.

Twenty-four students received Promise Program assistance in its inaugural year, according to district officials.