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How COVID-19 Ushered in a Wave of Promising Teacher Pay Reforms

BY debraabritt
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Chad Aldeman and Katherine Silberstein
December 2021

Amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, a number of school districts have broken from tradition to offer pay outside of the rigid step-and-lane salary schedules. In particular, many districts are now offering flat-dollar raises or non-recurring bonuses, incentives to address long-standing recruitment and retention issues, or compensation to shape teacher behavior in other ways such as getting vaccinated.

It’s possible that these reforms are only temporary. The fall of 2021 was a remarkably tight labor market, especially for “low-skill” workers like instructional aides and bus drivers. Or, districts may be so flush with one-time federal relief funds that they’re simply trying to spend their money quickly.

Still, it’s a promising sign that districts are being nimble with their funds at a time that calls for fast thinking, and some of these innovations in teacher pay may live on beyond the pandemic if district leaders find them effective. In this piece, the authors outline the types of innovations popping up, explain why they matter, and highlight some of the districts trying them.


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