(1) A critical teacher shortage tuition reimbursement program shall be established for the purpose of improving the skills and knowledge of current teachers or persons preparing to teach in critical teacher shortage areas.
(2) The State Board of Education shall adopt rules to implement the critical teacher shortage tuition reimbursement program. Any full-time public school employee or lab school employee certified to teach in this state is eligible for the program. For the purposes of this program, tuition reimbursement shall be limited to courses in critical teacher shortage areas as determined by the State Board of Education. Such courses shall be:
(a) Graduate-level courses leading to a master’s, specialist, or doctoral degree;
(b) Graduate-level courses leading to a new certification area; or
(c) State-approved undergraduate courses leading to an advanced degree or new certification area.
(3) Participants may receive tuition reimbursement payments for up to 9 semester hours, or the equivalent in quarter hours, per year. The amount of the reimbursement per semester hour shall be prorated based on available appropriations and may not exceed $78 per semester hour, up to a total of 36 semester hours. All tuition reimbursements shall be contingent on passing an approved course with a minimum grade of 3.0 or its equivalent.
(4) This section shall be implemented only to the extent specifically funded and authorized by law.