Flint Schools Gave $22,500 COVID Bonuses Before Shifting Indefinitely to Remote Learning

by Scott McClallen


Flint Public School staff members got a $22,500 COVID bonus with federal money intended “to safely reopen” schools before the school in January shifted indefinitely to online learning, citing COVID.

The move forced more than 3,500 students – a majority of them Black kids – back into virtual learning, despite bleak past results and at least $99 million of federal money the U.S. Department of Education expressly designated “to reopen K-12 schools safely.”

House Education Chair Rep. Pamela Hornberger, R-Chesterfield Twp, called on Flint schools to offer in-person school, noting that proximate private and public schools are open in-person.

“If you got a $20,000 bonus, why wouldn’t you return to the classroom?” Hornberger said in a phone interview.

Hornberger said there is “no logical defense of the adults in the Flint school district that are being allowed to hold student’s education hostage.”

Hornberger said Flint received $99.3 million in federal American Rescue Plan funding, which broke down to $27,426 per pupil for each of its 3,623 students. But those kids don’t even have an option to learn in-person.

“This is in addition to the highest on record per pupil funding all school districts received from the state of Michigan,” Hornberger said in a statement. “In October, Flint schools agreed to use some of those federal dollars to pay each teacher a $22,500 COVID-related bonus. Obviously, a lack of funding is not to blame for depriving Flint students of classroom instruction.”

Federal funding disbursed via Title I formula favor districts with higher populations of students from low income families, meaning that Flint received the most federal COVID money per student statewide, more than $27,000 per student.

Flint Schools hasn’t responded to questions about the bonus or even a date when kids can return to in-person school.

It’s unclear why just seven miles away, Grand Blanc Public Schools can operate in-person (except Wednesday because of snow) with about 8,000 students, but it’s apparently too dangerous for Flint kids to return.

“We have a moral obligation to educate the children of the state of Michigan,” Hornberger said in a statement. “What is currently happening to thousands of students in the Flint School District is egregious. Flint students, some of the poorest and most underserved students in our state, are currently locked out of school indefinitely. The district has not yet communicated what day students will be returning to face-to-face, in-class instruction.”

Hornberger said some schools are giving out COVID bonuses to prevent nearby districts that pay higher wages from poaching teachers. That follows Bureau of Labor Statistics estimating 567,000 fewer educators in public schools nationwide today than pre-pandemic, National Public Radio reported.

One Michigan bill aims to provide a bigger teacher pool by allowing public schools to hire college education majors prior to their certification as teachers.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s office hasn’t responded to a request for comment. In her State of the State address, Whitmer agreed that “students belong in school” but stopped short of any action.

“We know it’s where they learn best,” Whitmer said. “Remote learning is not as fulfilling or conducive to a child’s growth. In-person learning is critical to social development and mental health. That’s why we will do everything we can to keep kids in the classroom.”

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Scott McClallen is a staff writer covering Michigan and Minnesota for The Center Square. A graduate of Hillsdale College, his work has appeared on Forbes.com and FEE.org. Previously, he worked as a financial analyst at Pepsi.





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