Good news for teachers – unless you’re in Salt Lake School District


The good news for Utah’s K-12 teachers and staff is that the Utah legislature voted to appropriate $121 million for one-time “COVID-19 educator assistance stipend.” Teachers would see $1,500 and staff $1000 for their work during an extremely trying year, a sort of hazard pay for these heroic frontline workers. 


Governor-elect Spencer Cox said 

“This pandemic has put extraordinary strain on our entire education community, including school janitors, cafeteria workers, nurses, counselors, bus drivers, and especially our teachers. It’s taken courage, creativity, patience and perseverance to get through this year, and it’s not over yet. 

“These frontline workers have earned our heightened respect, but they deserve tangible rewards as well. That’s why I’m so grateful to House and Senate leaders for joining us in providing these extra payments to school personnel. We honor and thank them for their remarkable efforts this year.”

The bad news is that Salt Lake City school district teachers are being excluded and it feels like unfairly punished for decisions that aren’t even theirs to make. The Salt Lake City school board voted to have students learn remotely at the beginning of the school year and has had the goal to bring students back as soon as it is safe to do. The demands on teachers are no less significant with remote learning. However, the “hazard pay” for teachers requires them to be teaching in person, a decision that individual teachers cannot make. By adding that requirement, it seems reasonable to expect that schools may reopen prematurely, increasing the health risk to all. Many of the students and their families fall into high risk categories because of their racial minority status, close living quarters and family members who are “essential workers,” thus facing frequent potential exposure to COVID-19. 

Senator Kathleen Riebe points out that government has taken their work online too. 


I hope the legislature reconsiders. This seems particularly cruel to teachers in a particularly difficult year.