Prospects for further stimulus checks from the Internal Revenue Service have wavered dramatically this year as the United States swings between recovery and relapse from the COVID-19 pandemic. But while it looks unlikely that a fourth federal stimulus check will ever materialize, some states and school districts are now approving a one-time “thank you” or hazard pay bonus to teachers and staff—essentially a stimulus check to educators for sticking it out through the pandemic.
Those states include:
- California: The Berkeley Unified School District will spend $2.8 million in 3.5% teacher bonuses for the upcoming year
- Colorado: The state will also be doling out $1,000 bonuses
- Florida: 175,000 teachers and 3,600 principals will receive $1,000 checks, but the program excludes the state’s 120,000 school staff members
- Georgia: Roughly 230,000 K-12 public school teachers and staff will receive $1,000 checks
- Tennessee: Will also be giving $1,000 bonuses
- Texas: Will also be giving $1,000 bonuses
The payments—several of which were approved in March, around the time when teachers sign contracts for the following year—are largely aimed at employee retention and recruiting after a tough year for schools, teachers, and students, who had to navigate uncharted remote learning territory. The funds are being drawn from states’ federally supplied stimulus coffers, which totaled $350 billion across state, local, and tribal governments to be used for purposes including pandemic costs, to cover revenue shortfalls, or on public infrastructure such as water, sewage, or broadband internet systems.
However, the educator stimulus checks have come under fire in some jurisdictions, as critics argue it’s an improper use of the funds. The Education Department has pushed back on Florida’s bonuses in particular, in a June 30 letter that questions whether the state breaks federal rules by dipping into funds the department had earmarked specifically for lost learning and student catching-up. The goal, some say, is to make sure that the funds ultimately benefit students and not just teachers.
Program advocates, meanwhile, argue that better pay for teachers benefits students by allowing the school district to retain better talent in education. California’s Berkeley school district superintendent told the Wall Street Journal that “to use some of the Covid money to ensure that we remain competitive, that we remain a stable school district, feels very much in the interest of supporting students learning during this crisis period.”