Area teachers to receive bonus money

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SANDPOINT — Even though Idaho Superintendent Tom Luna’s education reform package was repealed in last week’s general election, local teachers will still be seeing the money in some capacity.

Idaho educators who earned pay-for-performance bonuses under the Students Come First education package will still receive a boost from the funding allocated to the program, Luna announced Tuesday. That means that the staff of Sandpoint Middle School, Clark Fork High School, Sandpoint High School, Kootenai Elementary School, Hope Elementary School, Sagle Elementary School, Farmin Stidwell Elementary School, Southside Elementary School, Washington Elementary School, Northside Elementary School, and Lake Pend Oreille High School could be seeing some kind of bonus in their paychecks.

“This is great news for Idaho teachers who have worked hard to earn these bonuses and deserve to receive them,” Luna said. “I am pleased districts will be able to distribute this $38 million in bonuses despite the repeal of Proposition 2.”

Lake Pend Oreille School District will receive an estimated $945,000 from the state in total, according to the Idaho State Department of Education. If the payment is used for bonuses, the average amount will be about $2,000. State officials will send out the payment on Thursday, and district administrators have until Dec. 15 to distribute the bonuses.

According to Lake Pend Oreille School District Superintendent Shawn Woodward, the district may have some flexibility in how they choose to disperse the funds, although they are still investigating the matter. The ability to use the state funds in a discretionary manner could help the school district save some staffing positions.

“In the situation we’re in right now, we’re going to have to be in a bit of a cutting mode,” Woodward said.

The ability to use state-dispersed funds on staffing salaries and benefits rather than bonuses could ultimately help the school district save some of the district’s education jobs.

However, staff are still examining whether or not they are legally obligated to use the funds for teacher bonuses only. The answer to that question, along with the school board’s final decision regarding potential supplemental levy increases and whether or not that proposed levy plan receives voter approval, will determine the magnitude of staffing cuts.

“If it turns out we can only use the money for bonuses, we’ll be happy it’s going into our teachers’ pockets,” Woodward said. “But this money could potentially save some staffing positions.”

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