The Kentucky Department of Education is offering public school employees $100 to get the COVID-19 vaccine before Dec. 1. Kentucky Education Commissioner Jason Glass said the goal is to get more school staff vaccinated.
“Part of it is recognizing and rewarding those staff members who did the right thing early on, and it acts as an incentive for those folks to get vaccinated who have not,” he said in a press call with reporters Friday.
The department will use federal funds to reimburse districts that choose to participate in the program. Glass said KDE has set aside $8.8 million of state federal coronavirus relief funding, enough to give each of Kentucky’s 88,000 school staff $100.
The department doesn’t know what percentage of public school employees are vaccinated; but it’s not all of them. Hundreds of employees have been quarantined or sickened since the school year began. In dozens of districts, quarantines and staffing shortages have forced officials to temporarily close in-person learning.
“This is one of the ways that we can limit that and keep the in-person learning going,” Glass said.
Vaccinated employees are much less likely to become sick and don’t have to quarantine unless they have symptoms.
Glass said new orders from the Biden administration may make vaccination mandatory for school district employees. The Department of Labor’s Occupational Health and Safety Administration vaccine requirement for employers with more than 100 workers may apply to school districts in some states and U.S. territories.
“In the early communications on this, there were 26 states and territories that were identified where it would apply. Kentucky was one of those,” Glass said.
However, Glass said the order will likely face legal challenges and could be tied up in the courts.
“There’s still a lot we don’t know,” he said.
In the meantime, he’s hoping $100 might sway some employees to get the shot.
“Time will tell in determining if this is a sufficient incentive,” he said. The department is encouraging districts to sweeten the deal by matching the state’s $100 payments using their own stimulus funds.