After excluding some teachers, state changes eligibility for bonus payments

Published: Mar. 8, 2022 at 8:20 PM CST
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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG) - Teachers originally ineligible for bonus payments will now receive them after the Department of Education changed eligibility requirements Tuesday afternoon.

Originally only teachers who taught 100% in-person were eligible for the bonus payment, according to documents and videos from the Department of Education. The requirement made hundreds of teachers across the state ineligible after Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds (R) promised the payments in her Condition of the State Address.

The Department of Education released a new frequently asked question document, which shows the state has changed the 100% in-person requirement to those who didn’t teach 100% online along with other clarifications.

In her speech, Governor Kim Reynolds said the payments were meant as a thank you to teachers who worked during the pandemic and as a retention tool. The money for the payments came from ESSER Funds, which were a part of the American Rescue Plan Act.

Elisabeth Ross, who has been a teacher in Eastern Iowa for 14 years as a music teacher for elementary school students, said she was frustrated after finding out she was originally ineligible for the $1,000 bonus. She said she only teaches online for around 10% of her total classes and was frustrated she was left behind.

”It’s mostly frustrating because it seems like discrimination,” Ross said. “And it feels like we are being singled out as a political statement and not really because of the work we do as teachers.”

She said it’s hard to tell the state’s intentions with the original 100% requirement, but the Governor’s policies regarding online learning and COVID-19 make her question the original requirements’ intentions.

We asked a spokesperson from the Department of Education about the rationale for changing the threshold so dramatically and we haven’t heard back. Other employees like school counselors still aren’t eligible for the $1,000 bonus.

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