OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — OPS staff will be getting an extra boost. At Monday night's meeting, the Omaha Public Schools Board of Education voted in favor of a new distribution of ESSER funds. This includes a stipend program.
Under the program, full-time staff will be receiving $9,000 over the course of two years. The funds will be distributed in increments. Part-time staff will receive half of that.
But, Monday, teachers expressed worry about the stipend program.
"Members are wondering what strings might be attached to the stipend such as working more hours, larger class sizes or take on more coverage. That it is a band-aid approach to solving the real issue," Omaha Education Association President, Robert Miller said. "The stipend may be nice but there needs to be a concrete plan in place to deal with issues impacting the classroom."
Teachers say issues in the classroom existed before the pandemic, but have been exacerbated in the past few years. They say they've brought these issues up to the board multiple times, but they haven't been taken into consideration.
"The present moment feels like a derailment with a stipend to address potentially catastrophic results. The stipend only addresses one problem, a financial one. It does not address the past current and future working conditions," Michelle Settlemyer, Omaha Education Association, President-elect said.
The board members said there aren't any strings attached and they don't see it as a band-aid. They expressed understanding of the issues teachers have been going through the past few years.
Board members say they see the stipend as relief and a way to say thank you for all the hard work.
"We looked at it more as really just trying to help our staff in this economy. Gas prices (are) going up, food prices going up, rent prices going up. It’s not getting any better so that’s how I really viewed this, as just trying to give immediate relief to people just to live," said Board Member Tracy Casady.
Another topic at Monday's meeting was class sizes. With a staffing shortage, class size will likely increase. This is a problem teachers say not only affects them but also the learning gap and success rates of students.
District representatives say they're working to offset larger classes with student teachers.
Meanwhile, teachers say board members don't truly understand what they're going through.
"If you really want to make change happen, we need those making the decisions to come work in the trenches with us," one teacher said at the meeting.
The plan passed 8 to 1, with Marque Snow voting against it. He said it's not because teachers don't deserve the money but rather he wants to find ways to help address deeper issues.
With the board's vote, the plan now goes to the Nebraska Department of Education for final approval.