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Report: Multiple California Schools Plan To Shell Out Teacher Bonuses Using COVID Relief Funds
Jumoke Hinton Hodge (fourth from left), an Oakland Unified School District board member, attends a meeting in the Great Room at the LaEscuelita Center in Oakland, Calif., on Wednesday, June 12, 2019. Darnisha Wright, a kindergarten teacher at Markham Elementary in East Oakland, was choked by Hodge during the teacher's strike in March, an altercation that was caught on video, which went viral. In April, less than a month after the incident and shortly after Wright said she would file charges, she received a letter from the principal of her school that terminated her employment.
Yalonda M. James/San Francisco Chronicle via Getty Images

Multiple California public school districts are reportedly using COVID-19 relief funds to pay teachers bonuses. 

Reopen California Schools, a parent advocacy group posted a slew of memos and announcements from different school districts across California that show they plan on using the money from the latest coronavirus bailout package to pay “one-time” bonuses to teachers and staff. The money is intended to be spent on reopening schools. 

“I’ve been inundated with reports of school districts spending state and federal Covid relief money on substantial one-time bonuses to teachers and administrators instead of spending them on getting kids back in classrooms or to curb learning loss,” Reopen California Schools tweeted

The first reported payouts began at the Desert Sands Unified School District in La Quinta, California. The school district entered into an agreement with the Desert Sands Teachers Association to pay teachers — who will remain teaching virtually — a one-time bonus. According to a memorandum of understanding between the two parties signed on March 13, the district agreed to provide $1,000 for an “off-schedule one-time transition to hybrid instruction stipend to all full-time unit members” using COVID-19 relief funds. 

Reopen California Schools pointed out that when kids return to school, some will be monitored by a substitute teacher while actual teachers remain online. Substitute teachers who teach in-person will not get the bonus or stipend. 

On March 10, the day that the coronavirus relief bill was passed, Clovis Unified School District announced that its Employee Compensation Committee (ECC) met to discuss a payment plan for teacher bonuses. 

“Because of the influx of one-time dollars from the state and federal government related to COVID relief for schools, committee members were asked to focus their immediate work on a possible one-time, off-schedule payment to employees paid in the current school year,” an internal memo reads. 

Many of these deals were crafted and pushed forward by teacher unions. In the San Juan Unified School District, five unions worked to approve “one-time, off-schedule” payments to teachers. The unions were the San Juan Teachers Association, California School Employees Association, San Juan Professional Educators Coalition, Teamsters Local No. 150, and San Juan Supervisors Association. 

According to Reopen California Schools, San Juan’s agreement will provide more bonus money to virtual employees than it will to employees who have been teaching or working in-person since September. 

“This means food service and special [education] aides who have been in-person since September get approximately $300, teachers who haven’t stepped foot on campus get approximately $1,000, and the superintendent approximately $3,000,” the group said. 

San Juan Unified is also giving teachers an extra $500 stipend.  

Other districts that are using COVID relief dollars to pay bonuses include the Galt Joint Union Elementary Schools, which plans to give teachers $750 in bonuses, and the Oakland Unified School District. Oakland is offering teachers $2,000 bonuses on April 14, the day that school buildings are scheduled to reopen for hybrid learning. 

The West Sacramento Teachers Association announced that it had also procured a $1,000 stipend for teachers from the Sacramento City Unified School District. 

Democrats passed the $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill on March 10, the package allocated nearly $40 billion to reopening schools. 

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