Sun Sentinel | By Scott Travis | August 17, 2021
A jab or two in the arm will be worth $250 for Broward schools employees.
The School Board voted Tuesday to offer the bonus as a way to encourage employees to be vaccinated. The incentive will be available to any employee who has already received a vaccine or does so by Oct. 20.
Employees will need to receive both doses of the Moderna or Pfizer vaccine or the one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine by the deadline.
With the new year school year starting Wednesday and COVID-19 cases skyrocketing in recent weeks, most board members said it’s an important tool to help slow the spread and save lives.
“If could do something to motivate and encourage people to be vaccinated, it’s so important that people be vaccinated,” School Board Chairwoman Rosalind Osgood said. “There’s a lot of hesitancy, and this is also a way to show some values to employees.”
The cost would be $7.5 million if all 27,989 employees participate. The incentives will be paid using Elementary and Secondary Schools Emergency Relief funds, a form of federal COVID aid for school districts.
The action follows a similar move last month by Orange County Public Schools, which are offering employees $200.
Although all Broward School Board members supported it, Donna Korn and Laurie Rich Levinson were at first reluctant.
“These are dollars that could otherwise be spent for very direct educational reasons,” Korn said.
Levinson said she’d rather the school district require employees to be vaccinated.
“When we’re paying people to be vaccinated, that’s in direct conflict with mandatory vaccinations,” Levinson said.
Under state rules imposed by Gov. Ron DeSantis, employers, including school districts, are allowed to mandate employees be vaccinated, but they’re not allowed to ask for actual proof, said Marylin Batista, the district’s general counsel.
However, there’s nothing in state law prohibiting the district for asking employees to submit vaccination records for the purpose of receiving a voluntary bonus, Batista said.
Most board members decided an incentive would go over better among employees.
“As much as I don’t like to reward people to do things they should be doing, this is different,” board member Nora Rupert said. “People are quite afraid of getting vaccinated and what it can do in the future. But if they don’t get the vaccine, it’s going to have a lot more side effects” if they get COVID-19.