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Nebraska state senator proposes one time teacher bonus plan, met with opposition

Published: Jan. 10, 2022 at 5:27 PM CST
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - According to the Nebraska State Education Association, there are about 50,000 teachers and support staff across the state. A $1,000 bonus would take $50 million out of the state’s $1 billion pandemic relief fund.

“Now I know people will say too much or not enough...but it is a way to say we value all of things that you’ve been doing during COVID and we really want you to stay on,” said Jenni Benson.

President of the Nebraska State Education Association Jenni Benson says the proposed retention funds are just one part of a comprehensive plan to help keep teachers in Nebraska classrooms. It’s an issue that school districts are dealing with across the country.

“We have had a 50% decrease in people attending teachers colleges for the past 10 years and we know that. We know there are things we need to look at and work on.”

“For our teachers right now we’re facing a crisis, when we have that teacher shortage crisis it’s going to be something that really going to be hard to pull out of,” said Senator Carol Blood.

To make matters worse, Nebraska has to fight other states for teachers. States like Georgia are already using the American Rescue Plan Act funds to keep their teachers.

“Other districts and states are doing much bigger things as far as even recruitment goes you know Dallas, holy buckets they’re giving, if you recruit a teacher and you’re a teacher you get a stipend, as well as the person coming in, gets a stipend.”

Nebraska State Senator Carol Blood has introduced a bill that would give Nebraska teachers bonus money from pandemic relief funds. Sen. Blood says it’s needed because Nebraska schools are in crisis mode.

LB696 would give the one-time stipend not only to teachers but also to support staff, including bus drivers, food service workers, and librarians.

“And that crisis is the fact that….there are a substantial amount of teachers that are going to be leaving in the next two years.”

“We know teachers are feeling under appreciated they’re dealing with issues like PTSD and depression have climbed substantially higher because of the pandemic.”

President of the Nebraska Taxpayers for Freedom Doug Kagan doesn’t believe teachers are entitled to the COVID relief funds.

“What we would like to see most of the money spent on other than that are front line medical and health professionals such as doctors and nurses and hospitals and clinics, paramedics, anyone who has direct contact with COVID-19 patients and victims. We don’t think that other categories of employees are entitled to special treatment,” said Kagan.

Doug Kagan founded Nebraska Taxpayers for Freedom in the late 1970s. He tells 6 News it’s a grassroots nonpartisan, nonprofit organization. Senator Blood says there’s nothing nonpartisan about the group at all.

“I think the same organization has the opportunity to support three of my bills that lower property taxes through logical legislation but they don’t line up to support any bills that pertain to anything that a Democrat brings forward so I really don’t have much to say about a partisan nonprofit organization such as that group.”

“We don’t think that other categories of employees are entitled to special treatment such as the public school teachers, they want pay bonuses, they have a bill in the legislature to grant themselves pay bonuses because they think they’re suffering from stress,” said Kagan.

Benson says it’s important that we also support our educators because our educators support our children.

“And I don’t know how people can argue against investing in the most important thing in our society, the future of our children.”

“We have to remember that our teachers and our support staff that they’re people with families and they’re people right now that need our compassion because no matter what career you work in its very few that have not been affected by the pandemic in one way or another.”

Kagan says his organization plans to attend legislative hearings, city council and county board meetings to prevent spending on what they call additional social programs.

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