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Utah teachers could get COVID bonuses under $10 million proposal

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Jon Reed
/
KUER
Third grade teacher Cara Cerise going over a math lesson with her students.

Utah teachers could get a bonus for the extra work they did this winter during the surge of omicron variant COVID-19 cases. The Utah Legislature is considering spending $10 million on the proposal.

During the height of the surge, there weren’t enough substitutes to cover all the teacher absences. Many teachers had to step in and act as subs for their coworkers.

“Teachers were giving up prep periods in order to go and just cover an additional class,” said Sen. Lincoln Fillmore, R-South Jordan, Senate Chair of the Public Education Appropriations Subcommittee. “What you had is, essentially, teachers working overtime without overtime pay. And so this $10 million would just kind of pay them back.”

The sub shortage got so bad that Gov. Spencer Cox authorized state employees to take time off to work as substitute teachers. Cox himself filled in at a junior high school in Taylorsville.

The Utah Education Association, the state’s largest teachers union, supports the bonuses. Jay Blain, the organization’s policy and research director, said teachers deserve this — and more.

“Even beyond covering for subs because students are out sick or teachers are out sick because of COVID, they have to do extra planning or [spend] extra time with students catching up,” Blain said. “This would help compensate them for some of that time, not all of it.”

It’s not clear yet how much each teacher would get under the proposal. If the Legislature leaves it up to local districts to decide how to distribute the money, teachers across the state could get different amounts.

Sonja Hutson is a politics and government reporter at KUER.
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