As parents, we know there are few people on the planet who are as important as teachers. Yet we're still watching educators around the country having to go on strike to get decent pay, limits on class sizes, and other basic necessities.
That's why our hearts are warmed to learn a bit of good news in the realm of teacher compensation. East Lansing Public Schools in Michigan recently found a surplus in their budget and voted to spend more than half of it on staff bonuses.
"It's been extremely rewarding for me to give a token of appreciation to our staff," district superintendent Dori Leyko said in an email to the Lansing State Journal. "They work so hard for our students and families, and I can't think of a better investment than one in our people."
After a year-end audit of the 2018-2019 budget, officials found a $687,000 budget surplus. The school board voted to give the 341 employees who work at least 20 hours a week a $,1000 bonus after taxes, while 36 employees who work fewer than 20 hours a week got $500, the Journal reported. The average teacher salaries in the district range from $54,460-$69,770, depending on grade levels, according to Teacher.org.
East Lansing Education Association President Tim Akers told the Journal that as far as he is aware, teachers in the district have never received bonuses. He also said that the teachers union was unhappy about pay freezes they endured in the 2016-17 and 2017-18 school years. But Board of Education President Erin Graham told the paper that the district is on "better financial footing" now.
This is great news for the children of East Lansing, but so much more needs to be done for teachers and students everywhere. According to the National Education Association, when inflation is taken into account, the average teacher's salary has actually decreased by 3% over the past decade. The Learning Policy Institute found that almost 20% of teachers leave the profession entirely due to low pay. That turnover means our kids are not benefitting from having experienced educators in their classrooms. The teachers that do stick around often have to work second jobs just to make ends meet.
But this teacher bonus is a step in the right direction. Keep this all in mind when you start planning holiday gifts for your kids' teachers this year. That will spread the cheer!