SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah State Board of Education has rushed to spend $10 million on bonuses for teachers and other school staff who have taken on extra work due to health issues. staff and COVID-19.
The money, distributed in $100 increments to educators based on the extra work they’ve done, was appropriated this year by the Utah state legislature as a “thank you” for work in difficult circumstances.
“There’s a message behind it, saying ‘thank you,’ from the legislature,” said Dr. Sydnee Dickson, the state’s superintendent of public instruction. “Thank you, we hear you, we recognize you and we know you have a lot of burdens.”
The extra money is welcome, said Jay Blain of the Utah Education Association, the state’s largest teachers’ union. The money was allocated to teachers who replaced others when there was no replacement available. Utah has recently struggled to find substitute teachers.
“The teachers are still making extraordinary efforts and are very tired and very exhausted. They are doing their best in the situation,” Blain said.
The state board of education expedited the funding vote to ensure it was in educators’ paychecks before the end of the school year. State school board members also fast-tracked a vote to implement an all-day kindergarten expansion.
The legislature passed a bill to give children the option of attending kindergarten on a half-day or full-day basis. He received widespread support on Capitol Hill.
“Only 30% of our students had access to a full day of K,” Dr. Dickson said. “Unlike other states, in fact most other states, 80% of students had access to a full day of K.”
However, because the legislature only partially funded the program at a cost of $12 million, it will be prioritized based on student socio-economic status, geography, and whether a school district has the space for it. Districts must also apply to the state for expansion.
The legislator increased education funding this year, increasing the weighted student unit (the formula often used to determine teacher salaries) and expanding a number of other programs.