Utah’s $1,500 teacher bonuses may exclude Salt Lake City

Mrs. Sparks, a teacher at Arrowhead Elementary, welcomes students and briefs them on mask use due to COVID-19 concerns, on the first day back in class for Washington County School District in Santa Clara, Utah, Thursday, Aug. 13, 2020. (Chris Caldwell/The Spectrum via AP)

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Most Utah teachers are in line to get $1,500 bonuses from the last batch of federal pandemic relief funds. But Salt Lake City educators may not be included after lawmakers decided Wednesday to exclude the district because they haven’t been teaching in person.

The proposed budget for the state’s public school budget this year would provide a $1,500 bonus for all licensed educators and $1,000 for non-administrative staff. Lawmakers added a provision prioritizing the bonuses to teachers in districts that offer in-person learning or a hybrid model.

This would exclude online-only Salt Lake City School District unless it moves back to in-person education before the 2021 session starts on Jan. 19.

We should funnel this money to those districts that have had their students in the classroom or have had the option to be in the classroom,” Republican House Speaker Brad Wilson said.

Salt Lake City School District spokeswoman Yandary Chatwin criticized the committee’s decision and said that teachers in the district have gone “above and beyond” during the pandemic.

“The work of ALL educators during COVID-19—online AND in person—is valuable, has been crucial to kids and families, and is worthy of recognition,” she wrote on Twitter.

Mayor Erin Mendenhall also slammed the decision, saying the “punitive provision should be removed immediately.”

Teachers are among the heroes of this pandemic,” she said. “When faced with the impossible, they’ve done their best to serve our community & have done what’s been asked of them by the school board. They’ve earned that stipend”

The district is planning to return some classes in-person on Jan. 25, which wouldn’t meet the proposed deadline.

The motion will go before the Republican-controlled Legislature next month.

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Eppolito is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.

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