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Teachers Unions Would Rather Hire More Staff Than Give Teachers Bonuses 

We’ve heard a lot this year about the effects the “great resignation” is having on education and about how unhappy teachers are right now. Not everyone believes teachers are leaving their profession in droves, but the dissatisfaction seems real. 

Here’s an idea – why not give teachers big bonuses from all the money the federal government dumped into education this year? 

The American Rescue Plan (ARP), passed in March last year, included $123 billion for K-12 education, which is enough to give each teacher a $38,000 bonus. Wouldn’t that help improve teacher satisfaction?

Many frontline workers received bonuses. Even some teachers received small payouts from their districts in recognition of the hardships brought on by the pandemic.

You would think the largest teachers union would be pushing to give teachers hazard pay to boost morale. 

Instead, the National Education Association advocated to use the ARP money set aside for educators to hire more support staff, mental health experts, nurses, and janitors.  

If you understand the NEA’s incentives, this makes sense. Let’s assume average union dues are about $800 a year (in many places they’re more). Hiring an additional 10,000 employees who could become NEA members would mean a yearly $8 million windfall for the NEA and its affiliates. 

But giving more money to current teachers doesn’t help the NEA at all. 

Maybe we’re starting to understand why teachers are so frustrated even though they have a big, powerful union.

Brigette Herbst

Brigette Herbst is the Senior Organizing Director of Americans for Fair Treatment, a community of current and former public-sector employees offering resources and support to exercise their First Amendment rights. Prior to joining Americans for Fair Treatment in 2018, Brigette’s career included working in the public sector for New York State, teaching elementary school, coaching high school sports, and working as a municipal county employee. This unique experience offers Brigette an inside perspective on public employee culture in New York. She focuses on educating New Yorkers about their constitutional rights with regard to union membership and promoting fair treatment of workers. Brigette has her bachelor’s degree in history and politics and her master’s degree in elementary education. In her spare time, she enjoys traveling and planning trips for her family.