APS Faces Backlash from Georgia School Chief Over Mishandling Teacher Bonus Funds

December 21, 2023
2 mins read

The Atlanta Public Schools system has found itself at the center of a heated controversy following Governor Brian Kemp’s announcement of a $1,000 retention pay supplement for Georgia’s teachers and educational support staff.

This financial incentive, intended to honor the hard work and dedication of educators across the state, has sparked an intense debate within APS. Contrary to expectations, APS informed their educators that they would not be receiving this state-funded bonus, a decision that has drawn sharp criticism and raised significant concerns.

State School Superintendent Richard Woods, in a direct and forceful letter to Dr. Danielle S. Battle, Interim Superintendent of APS, has confronted this contentious issue head-on. Below is the full text of Woods’ letter to Battle.

Dr. Battle:

As you know, earlier this week, Governor Brian Kemp announced that Georgia’s hardworking
teachers and educational support staff would receive a $1,000 retention pay supplement.
Since then, my office has received countless emails and phone calls from concerned Atlanta
Public Schools educators asking why – as they’ve been told by your staff – they will not be
receiving this bonus.

I have reviewed APS’ statement to the news media on this issue. First, the statement reads:
“Gov. Kemp has provided bonuses for school employees the past few years and we were
certainly hopeful he would do so this year as well” and goes on to claim that APS, assuming a
state retention payment was imminent, used district funds to provide a $1,000 bonus to
employees in early December.

The statement then concludes, as you know, with appreciation to the Governor for “[using] the
state fund balance to share in the cost by providing stipends for our teachers, as this allows us
to use our fund balance for other education needs.”

Let me be very clear: the intent of the state’s $1,000 retention pay supplement is not to backfill
the Atlanta Public Schools budget or “share in the cost” of additional recognition already
provided by districts to teachers. The funds APS will receive from the state for this bonus are
not intended for “other education needs” – they are intended to provide well-deserved retention
bonuses to your teachers and educational support staff.

Frankly, I am baffled by the assertion that APS somehow predicted the exact timing and
amount of a bonus that had not been finalized or announced at the time of the district-level
payments – particularly since this payment does not align with the timing of retention payments
made in past years.

I find it even more inconceivable that, in this season of giving, APS would not welcome the
opportunity for its teachers and educational support staff to be recognized by the state for their
extraordinary efforts on behalf of students this year.

The Atlanta Board of Education approved a bonus to show appreciation to teachers – that is
commendable. Now, the state is providing a $1,000 retention payment to teachers and support
staff, and it is my expectation that they will receive it. Anything less is a disservice to the
teachers and staff whose efforts in the classroom – far more than anything that takes place at
the state or central office level – are the reason our students succeed.

Richard Woods
State School Superintendent

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