COVID funds used to give teachers ‘thank you’ bonuses; parents outraged

Millions of dollars in COVID relief funds are being turned into four-figure “thank you” bonuses for public school teachers and staff members in a number of states, stoking parental rage over misuse of pandemic funds.

States engaging in the trend include California, Colorado, Georgia, Tennessee, and Texas. More states are set to follow suit. The move is ironic especially in California where teachers balked at restoring in-person learning for months.

Georgia became the first state in the nation to give the green light to bonuses for teachers and staff. Leaders in that state decided to give $1,000 payments to over 230,000 employees. The price tag for that move amounted to $230.5 million, or roughly 35 percent of the state’s stimulus money, reported The WallStreet Journal. Many parents are enraged over the teacher bonuses.

The bonuses are reportedly a desperate attempt to keep educators from resigning due to low morale. Teachers are allegedly depressed after the COVID-19 pandemic forced them to shift to a year of remote learning and then back to in-person classroom teaching.

Bus drivers and cafeteria staff are also reportedly going to receive the extra stimulus cash which many are calling pandemic hazard pay.

Over $190 billion in COVID relief funds were issued to schools with very few restrictions on how they were to use the money.

The Wall St. Journal reported:

Dozens of school districts and states are spending big chunks of their historic federal stimulus cash on one-time bonuses to teachers and staff, over the objections of some parents and others who claim such payments violate the intent of the federal funding.

Schools have until 2024 to spend stimulus dollars, which totaled about $190 billion, the largest-ever, one-year federal infusion of cash for public schools. While districts and states have started spending some of the $81 billion already dispersed to states from the most recent round of $122 billion in funding, many are deciding how to allocate the rest and under federal guidelines won’t receive those funds until their plans have been approved. Twelve state spending plans have been approved thus far.

Georgia’s state board of education approved the bonuses in March, around the time teachers typically sign contracts for the following year, to aid with recruitment and retention following a difficult time.

 

“We needed some sort of morale boost, and our answer was to provide that bonus,” proclaimed Matt Jones, who is the chief of staff at Georgia’s state department of education.

According to The Sun, in Berkeley, California, approximately $2.8 million is being used to give teachers a 3.5 percent bonus prior to the upcoming school year.

More than 170,000 teachers in Florida are expected to receive a $1,000 check in the coming weeks as well. The payments are part of a $101.5 billion state budget that was signed into law by Gov. DeSantis in July. That didn’t stop the teacher’s union in Florida from attacking him, however.

DeSantis stated, “We know that the pandemic put an awful lot of strain on our first responders, EMTs, sworn law enforcement, firefighters and so we believe that we should recognize their sacrifice over the last year.”

Andrew Spar, who is the president of the Florida Education Association, remarked that teachers will “appreciate the help.” He also told News4Jax: “The devil’s in the details.”

Spar unappreciatively noted while taking an unprovoked smack at DeSantis, “If this was truly genuine, first of all, the money would have been given to all who work in our schools.” He claimed that the other 120,000-130,000 staff members should have also received checks.

Many on social media are less-than-enthused over the use of COVID relief funds to pay teachers:

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