California schools are using COVID relief payments for teacher bonuses and a union has jokingly requested a trip to Hawaii using the money – even as classrooms are still closed, internal memos have revealed.
The memos, shared online by the group Reopen California Schools, appear to show that some school districts have been using state and federal COVID relief money on educator bonuses instead of getting kids back into classrooms.
‘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,’ the group tweeted.
‘You’d think this money would be spent on PPE, supplies, and programs for kids. Not quite.’
An Employee Compensation Committee at the Clovis Unified School District, located in Fresno County, met on Wednesday to discuss how the relief funds would be used, according to the group.
Gov. Gavin Newsom has said about 9,000 of the state´s roughly 11,000 schools have either reopened or have a ‘firm date’ to reopen
California schools are using COVID relief payments for teacher bonuses and unions are allegedly requesting trips to Hawaii even as schools remain closed
Reopen California Schools published memo claiming Dublin Unified School District was looking at funding $2,500 teacher bonuses for possible trips to Hawaii
Another California school district was allegedly looking at giving 1% bonuses to teachers and staff
The Clovis Unified School District was allegedly considering one-time bonuses for teachers up to $6,000
‘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,’ the memo reads.
According to the memo, committee members studied funds it received during three rounds of federal aid and the state’s recent AB-86 bill – which provided appropriated $4.6 billion in state funds for schools to reopen and meet public health requirements.
According to the AB-86 bill text, funds may be used for any purpose consistent with providing in-person instruction and services including salaries.
The American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 also allocated $15million to the Department of Education that can be used to pay teacher salaries.
Last year’s CARES Act does not appear to directly include teacher salaries but contains a provision that permits funds to be used for ‘other activities that are necessary to maintain the operation of and continuity of services in local educational agencies and continuing to employ existing staff.’
The committee noted that each of the relief funds ‘have specific restrictions on eligible expenses and must be spent within the next 12-24 months.’
‘ECC members also discussed how they would like a one-time payment to employees to be distributed given the extraordinary effort required of every employee over the course of the pandemic,’ the memo reads.
The committee determined to recommend to the district’s governing board that district employees receive a one-time payment.
According to Reopen California Schools, a source familiar with the negotiations was ‘outraged’ that the district was considering offering $6,000 bonuses which ‘is supposed to go towards programs for students.’
‘This community has had an influx of teens arriving at the ER with self-injury. Grades have dropped substantially and many students disengaged. Poor hybrid schedules started just a few weeks ago and before aid bills passed,’ Reopen California Schools tweeted.
An Employee Compensation Committee at the Clovis Unified School District, located in Fresno County, reportedly met on Wednesday
A memo from the Clovis Unified School District, published online by Reopen California Schools, appears to show the district was allegedly considering one-time bonuses for teachers
San Juan Unified School District in Sacramento County allegedly discussed paying 1% bonuses with state and federal aid money, in what appears to be a screenshot from a school board agenda packet shared by the Reopen California Schools group.
‘The superintendent is recommending that the board approve the one-time, off-schedule payment of 1% as outlined in the side letters of agreement between SJUSD and the following bargaining groups,’ the document reads while listing affiliated teachers unions and associations.
Reopen California Schools claimed in a tweet that the pay bump means food service and special education aides who have been in-person since Sept get a bonus around $300.
‘Teachers who haven’t stepped foot on campus get about $1,000 and the superintendent gets $3,000,’ the group tweeted.
‘Why don’t the low wage staff who have been in-person the whole time get the $3,000 and the superintendent who gets paid 10 times what they do get $0?’
Reopen California Schools later posted an update in which it claimed the school district ‘is not only offering a 1% bonus to all staff, it’s giving teachers an extra $500 stipend with COVID relief money.’
Reopen California Schools published memo claiming Dublin Unified School District was looking at funding $2,500 teacher bonuses for possible trips to Hawaii. The mention of Hawaii, in item D, was meant not seriously, the union has said
Dublin Unified School District, located in the Bay Area, has proposed paying its teachers a one-time $2,500 bonus, according to a memo.
The $2,500 bonus is intended to cover costs such as PPE, technology upgrades to provide distance learning, childcare for teachers and ‘anything else.’
‘An airplane trip to Hawaii when this is all over?’ the memo reads.
Robbie Kreitz, speaking on behalf of the teacher’s union, told DailyMail.com that item listed in the internal memo was ‘taken out of context.’
‘We have been laser focused on bargaining for the safe return to campus for all Dublin students. In fact we return to the table tomorrow to continue that work,’ Kreitz said.
‘The comment you are referencing was on an internal DTA member communication and was taken out of context.’
Kreitz added: ‘It was quite clear that we are bargaining for the stipend to be used for the first three items on the list including the weekend time for preparation to return, safety equipment needed to return and support of childcare for those children who have not returned to campus.’
‘Item D not only does not connect to those, it was simply a playful comment not connected to the first three on the list on an internal communication to DTA members.’
Reopen California Schools later noted that the $2,500 for childcare and a trip to Hawaii was requested by the Dublin teachers union and has not been approved by the district.
San Juan Unified School District in Sacramento County allegedly discussed paying 1% bonuses with state and federal aid money
In what appears to be a school board meeting agenda packet from San Juan Unified School District, published by Reopen California Schools, officials looked at giving 1% bonuses
President Joe Biden has promised to provide educators the ‘pay and dignity they deserve,’ according to his campaign website.
‘In 2018, public school teachers made 21.4 percent less than workers with similar education and experience. And public school teachers’ average weekly wage hasn’t increased since 1996,’ according to Biden’s campaign site.
‘As President, Biden will correct this wrong. Biden will triple funding for Title I, the federal program funding schools with a high percentage of students from low-income families, and require districts to use these funds to offer educators competitive salaries and make other critical investments prior to directing the funds to other purposes.’
California Gov. Gavin Newsom, who is facing recall efforts, acknowledged mistakes in his handling of the coronavirus pandemic, but insists the recall effort against him has more to do with politics than the public health crisis.
The effort gained steam over the winter as coronavirus cases spiked in California, keeping schools and businesses shuttered to the frustration of many residents.
Newsom said about 9,000 of the state´s roughly 11,000 schools have either reopened or have a ‘firm date’ to reopen.
He said billions of dollars in state and federal aid recently approved should help ensure that schools can offer summer programs and other supplemental learning to make up for lost time.