Should you use stimulus funds to increase teacher pay?

'If we can get two years of smaller classes and more intensive interventions and support, I think that will have a tremendous impact'
By: | March 31, 2021
Several districts intend to use COVID stimulus funds to give teachers bonuses or hire more educators.Several districts intend to use COVID stimulus funds to give teachers bonuses or hire more educators.

Metro Nashville Public Schools leaders want to use a portion of their stimulus funding to give each full-time employee a $1,000 “COVID bonus.”

The district has applied to use money from the state’s ESSER 2.0 funding.

“Please know that your hard work over this last year has not gone unnoticed,” Superintendent Adrienne Battle wrote in an email to district staff. “You’ve all stepped up and stepped out of your comfort zone to find new and unique ways to meet the needs of the students, staff, and families we serve.”

Whether to use stimulus funding from the CARES Act or the American Rescue Plan to raise staff and teacher pay is being debated across public education.


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Some experts are cautioning education leaders against spending the money on long-term obligations—such as large-scale salary increases—that might not be sustainable after the relief funds run out.

“There will be pressure from teachers unions and other groups but this is a one-time infusion and school systems should treat it like that,” says Michael J. Petrilli, president of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute think tank.

But some, such as Superintendent Kandace Bethea of the Marion County School District in South Carolina, see the short-term financial infusion as an opportunity to tackle learning loss.

Even though stimulus funds have a two-year lifespan, Bethea says she intends to hire more full-time teachers to reduce class sizes, particularly in the earlier grades.

“If we can get two years of smaller classes and more intensive interventions and support, I think that will have a tremendous impact,” Bethea says.

In the Camden City School District in New Jersey, Superintendent Katrina McCombs plans to hire an additional certified teacher for each elementary classroom, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported.

In nearby Paulsboro Public Schools, Superintendent Roy J. Dawson III wants to use a portion of its expected $5.75 million in funding.to hire eight teachers and four counselors and support staff, according to The Inquirer.