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Board approves paying $1,000 bonuses to Georgia teachers

March 25, 2021 GMT

ATLANTA (AP) — Georgia’s state Board of Education has approved a plan to pay $1,000 bonuses to teachers and most other education employees, using in $240 million federal coronavirus relief money.

The Board of Education voted Thursday to send the money to Georgia school districts, which are in turn supposed to pay teachers before June 30.

Gov. Brian Kemp and state Superintendent Richard Woods, both Republicans, announced the plan in January. Woods told board members Thursday he thought it would encourage teachers to stay on the job.

“I feel that this was the right thing to do for our educators and education staff,” Woods said. “They have worked above and beyond. There has been a tireless effort to keep schools going.”

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Kemp has promised to increase teacher pay by $5,000 during his first term, of which he’s already delivered $3,000.

State officials followed up by saying they would also pay $1,000 bonuses to preschool teachers, state employees and public university employees, all financed directly or indirectly by federal aid.

The governor was originally supposed to chip in some money for the teacher bonuses from a pot he controlled, but the Board of Education voted to make the payments from the second and third rounds of federal coronavirus relief. Board members also voted Thursday to allocate to districts $3.8 billion of the $4.2 billion in school aid from the recently passed third round of relief, as required by the law. That money is being handed out based on how many lower-income students each district has.

“It is definitely a lot of money,” Woods said.

Each school district will get $1,014.50 for each full-time employee and $497.11 for each part-time employee. Those amounts include an additional 1.45% for Medicaid taxes. The amounts are not subject to the normal 6% for state retirement withholding, but income taxes will be withheld, as will Social Security taxes in districts where teachers are enrolled in the federal Social Security system.

“We’ve tried to ensure this is as close to as the actual $1,000 as possible,” said Department of Education spokesman Matt Cardoza.

Amounts being sent to districts for bonus payments range from $21 million for Gwinnett County, Georgia’s largest district, to $51,000 in Taliaferro County, the state’s smallest.

Any school-level employee including teachers, aides, counselors, nurses, custodians, bus drivers, cafeteria workers and principals will be eligible, but central office staff are not included. Many districts are expected to pay $1,000 bonuses to central office staff out of local funds.

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Follow Jeff Amy on Twitter at http://twitter.com/jeffamy.