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Augusta-area pre-K, child care teachers react to receiving bonus after original omission
Augusta Chronicle - 2/1/2021
Jan. 29—Joshua Knight is excited about receiving a $1,000 bonus from Georgia, thanks to a big increase in federal coronavirus aid.
"I was excited about it because I feel like we deserve it. We risk our lives coming into the school every day," Knight, who is a Pre-K teacher at Meadowbrook Elementary, said.
Knight thought the original announcement by Gov. Brian Kemp and Georgia School Superintendent Richard Woods included prekindergarten teachers and assistant teachers in public and private schools, but it did not.
On Wednesday, Georgia'sDepartment of Early Care and Learning Commissioner Amy Jacobs told the Associated Press they will be included.
"We're thrilled to be able to provide these payments," Jacobs said in a phone interview with the AP.
Jacobs said the department will use about $65 million of the most recent round of federal coronavirus funding on the one-time bonuses. About 3,800 prekindergarten teachers and assistant teachers, and an equal number of teachers in private schools, will be receiving the bonuses, the AP reported.
Teachers of children between birth and three years old are eligible, but the number depends on their private employers applying for the money, the AP reported.
Apparo Academy founder and Executive Director Jennifer Jones said she was aware of the bonus available but was waiting for more information from the state. Jones said she plans to apply to get the bonus for her teachers.
"I think the keyword in there is qualified teachers and qualified programs. We haven't received more information yet from the state as to what qualified means, if that's all-childcare centers or if that's only Georgia Pre-K, or what those terms actually mean," Jones said. "If it's available, I would love to be able to do that for my teachers."
Jones said the $1,000 bonus is a whole paycheck for some teachers so it could be extremely beneficial. She is glad the state is recognizing how important childcare centers and teachers have been during this pandemic by staying open and providing a place for parents to drop their children off and go to work when schools shut down.
"The state has been amazing at stepping up and supporting the childcare centers," she said. "They've been great about supporting the centers so I think it's amazing that now they are realizing they need to support the workers as well."
Kemp and Woods announced the plan for a one-time $1,000 bonus payment for every K-12 public school teacher and school-level staff member in the state a couple of weeks ago.
"It said 'school-level staff', so I thought that included us," Knight said.
Knight said the bonus will help him out a lot, especially since he is trying to save to buy a house. He said working during the pandemic has been difficult.
"It has been a little difficult trying to keep the kids separated and stuff. We have a small class, but it's still been difficult trying to social distance young children," he said.
The Richmond County School System said in a statement it is awaiting official guidance from the state about eligibility and funding for the payments.
"Teachers and school-based staff are working hard to educate and serve our students and families each day. These announcements remind our employees of the significance of their work and their value in our community," the statement reads.
The funds will be allocated to school districts, which must spend them on the bonus payments. Woods will recommend the allocation approval at the state board of education's Feb. 18 meeting.
"What we've asked of them has been far from easy, and we are providing these bonuses as a tangible gesture of our gratitude and respect for their work and sacrifices, and as a means of retaining these dedicated educators and support personnel who make educating our students possible," Woods said in a release. "This is about restoring hope for our educational workforce — during these unprecedented times, we must continue to invest in the people who directly serve students and make our education system run."
The payments will be provided through the Governor's Office and the Georgia Department of Education's reserve portion of CARES 2 stimulus funds. Jacobs told the Associate Press that teachers are likely to get the money in February or March.
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