Salt Lake City, Utah — Teachers and other school personnel who have picked up extra work because of staffing issues and COVID-19 will get $10 million in bonuses from The Utah State Board of Education.
“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.”
According to Jay Blain with the Utah Education Association, the state’s largest teacher’s union, the extra money is welcome. The money was allocated for teachers who substituted for others when there was no substitute available. Utah has struggled to find substitute teachers recently.
“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.
In order to ensure that it was in educators’ paychecks before the end of the school year, the state board of education fast-tracked the vote on the funding. State school board members also fast-tracked a vote to implement an expansion of all-day kindergarten.
The legislature received large support on Capitol Hill and passed a bill to give children the option of half-day or all-day kindergarten. “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 legislature only partially funded the program at a cost of $12 million, it will be prioritized based on the socioeconomic status of students, geography, and whether a school district has the space for it. Districts must also apply to the state for the expansion.