Teachers Are Being Paid Thousands in Bonuses To Prevent Them Quitting

Schools across the United States have begun offering teachers thousands in COVID-19 "retention bonuses" as an incentive to stay on throughout the school year, as record numbers leave the profession amid the pandemic.

Several schools are using pandemic relief funds, or local funds, to pay teachers bonuses as either one-off payments, or bonuses spaced throughout the academic year to stave off a teacher shortage—something already a nationwide concern before COVID-19.

Teacher shortages have been reported across multiple states after exhausted teachers quit or retired as schools repeatedly moved teaching online during the pandemic.

Multiple North Carolina school districts have rolled out retention bonuses for teachers.

Randolph County Public School System is offering every district employee a $5,000 bonus, a resolution adopted by the school board on October 25 last year states.

Onslow County Schools said it will invest some $6 million to provide approximately $3,600 in two retention bonus payments.

And Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools is handing out $2,500 for full-time employees, split in two parts for part-time employees—one last month, and the remainder in September.

Other school districts in the state granting teachers COVID-19 retention bonuses include Haywood County Schools, Catawba County Schools, Davidson County Schools, and Johnston County Public Schools.

In nearby South Carolina, Rock Hill Schools sent teachers hired before November 30, 2021, retention bonuses on December 21. Full-time certified staff working upwards of 30 hours per week were granted a $2,000 bonus, while part-time certified staff received $1,000, and part-time classified staff were granted $500.

Elsewhere, Detroit Public Schools Community District, which covers all of the city of Detroit, announced a COVID-19 retention bonus as part of its Fall 2021 Reopening Plan.

"Teachers will receive additional compensation ($500 per quarter) if they are teaching in a blended mode," it states.

The school district this week announced a shift to remote learning through January 14 amid a surge in COVID-19 cases.

Meanwhile, teachers in Dallas who stay through the school year have been told they will receive bonuses paid out in three installments—in September, December, and May 2023, with the sum correlating with teacher ranking.

Nationwide, principals, superintendents and counselors are filling in as substitutes in schools as COVID-19 cases, largely driven by the Omicron variant, strains schools already hit by staff shortages.

Large school districts including Atlanta, Detroit and Milwaukee have been forced to switch temporarily to remote learning due to COVID-19 breakouts and shortages of teachers.

Teachers described working during the pandemic as "exhausting" in interviews with the Associated Press.

"I had a friend say to me, 'You know, three weeks ago we were locking our doors because of school shootings again, and now we're opening the window for COVID.' It's really all a bit too much," said English teacher Meghan Hatch-Geary, who works at Woodland Regional High School in Connecticut.

"This year, trying to fix everything, trying to be everything for everyone, is more and more exhausting all the time."

Becky Pringle, president of the National Education Association, told the newswire that a surge in COVID-19 infections after the holiday season has worsened staff shortages.

"All of these additional burdens and stresses on top of being worried about getting sick, on top of being stressed like all of us are to after a two-year pandemic ... it just compounded to put us in a place that we are now," Pringle said.

A female teacher wearing a face mask.
Stock photo shows a female teacher wearing a face mask tutoring a primary student. Some teachers are being offered thousands in COVID retention bonuses as schools seek to prevent staff shortages. iStock