Education

All permanent Jefferson County Public Schools Employees stand to receive an extra $5,000 this coming school year. JCPS Superintendent Marty Pollio said the stipend, paid for with federal coronavirus relief funding, is meant to recognize employees’ work through the challenging period of the pandemic.

At this time our long-term financial outlook remains unclear for several reasons. In order to recognize our employees, we are providing this one-time stipend,” Pollio wrote in a letter to employees this week.

The district will pay out the stipend in three installments over the next several months, “provided employment is maintained,” the letter says.

All active full-time and permanent part-time JCPS employees will receive:

  • $2,500 on Sept. 17, 2021 (if hired by July 1, 2021 and work at least one contract day by Aug. 20)
  • $1,250 on Nov. 26, 2021 (if active as of Nov. 12, 2021)
  • $1,250 on May 27, 2022 (if active as of May 6, 2021)

The stipend will be subject to income taxes.

The district estimates the stipend will cost $75 million, based on the current number of employees.  JCPS stands to receive $578 million in federal coronavirus relief funds, but is facing the challenge of spending the stimulus funds in a way that won’t require staffing cuts down the road.

A recent survey by the RAND Corporation shows the pandemic could exacerbate the national teacher shortage. In polling from January and February of 2021, nearly one in four teachers said that they were likely to leave their jobs by the end of the 2020-2021 school year. That’s compared to one in six teachers who were likely to leave prior to the pandemic. Black teachers were particularly likely to consider leaving.

“We do understand that we have to address retention,” JCPS spokesperson Renee Murphy said. “We want to make sure our employees know they’re valued and we see their worth,” she said, noting many employees took on additional duties as a result of the pandemic.

It is unclear if JCPS will face the increased hiring challenges the survey portends. The most recent data from the last two school years show teacher retention was actually up significantly from pre-pandemic years. Last school year, JCPS retained 96% of teachers. Additionally, Murphy said JCPS closed out the 2020-2021 school year “in a really good position” in terms of vacancies.

Currently the district is advertising to fill 128 teacher vacancies, according to Murphy. JCPS has more than 6,000 full-time teachers. Typically the district hires around 400 teachers in a given school year.

But teachers aren’t the only employees JCPS is working to keep on staff. Historically, the district has struggled to hire and keep custodians and bus drivers. As recently as March, JCPS faced significant shortages in those departments.

Murphy said hiring is ongoing for those positions, and that the district is looking at ways to make bus routes more “efficient.”

Jess Clark is WFPL's Education and Learning Reporter.