A Big “Thank You”: $10 Million Bonuses To Utah Teachers

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Due to staffing shortages with COVID-19, the Utah State Board of Education hastened to spend $10 million in compensation for teachers and other school workers who had taken on extra work.

The money was given to educators in $100 increments based on how much additional work they accomplished this year by the Utah State Legislature as a “thank you” for their efforts under difficult conditions.

“There’s a message behind it, saying ‘thank you’ from the legislature,” said Dr. Sydnee Dickson, the state superintendent of public instruction. “Thank you, we hear you, we recognize you and we know you have a lot of burdens.”

The additional funds are appreciated, according to Jay Blain of the Utah Education Association, the state’s largest teachers’ union. The funds were set aside for instructors who filled in for others when there was no one else available. Recently, Utah has had difficulty finding replacement instructors.

“Teachers are still making extraordinary efforts and are very tired and very worn out. They’re doing the best they can under the situation,” Blain said.

The state board of education moved quickly to approve the funds so that it might reach teachers’ salaries before the end of the school year. Members of the state education board also rushed through a vote to expand all-day kindergarten.

A law was enacted in the legislature that allows children to choose between half-day and full-day kindergarten. On Capitol Hill, it gained a lot of support.

“Only 30% of our students have had access to full-day K,” Dr. Dickson said. “Unlike other states, in fact most other states, 80% of students have had access to full-day K.”

However, because the program was only partially financed by the legislature at a cost of $12 million, it will be prioritized depending on student socioeconomic status, location, and whether or not a school district has the necessary space. Districts must also submit an application to the state for growth.

This year, the legislature increased education financing by increasing the weighted student unit (a method used to calculate teacher wages) and expanding a number of other initiatives.