NewsCoronavirusLocal Coronavirus News


Cox on COVID-19 teacher bonuses: 'We came to an understanding'

Spencer Cox
Posted at 10:48 AM, Dec 19, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-19 12:48:48-05

SALT LAKE CITY — Governor-elect Spencer Cox gave insight into the closed-door negotiations that led to a deal to give pay bonuses to educators as a "thank you" for their work during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In a series of posts on Twitter on Saturday, the governor-elect ultimately praised the deal struck between the Salt Lake City School District and House Speaker Brad Wilson, who blocked funding to the district until they moved to in-person classroom instruction. It sparked controversy with the Speaker facing criticism that he was using teachers as hostages in negotiations with the school board.

Gov.-elect Cox discussed how politics is becoming increasingly like "sport."

"As ratings for all sports have declined, ratings and engagement in politics is skyrocketing. This new entertainment factor is very different than the way we have viewed politics (boring) in the past. Political twitter is [fire emoji], while sports twitter is increasingly meh," he wrote.

The governor-elect then invoked the tense negotiations between the Salt Lake City School District and the powerful Speaker of the House as an example. He said he wanted all teachers to receive bonuses across Utah.

"We worked closely with the legislature on the big announcement, but before release my staff was told that leadership would likely move to withhold the stipend from SLCSD. I have been outspoken about the need for an in-person option and have been working to get that changed. At the same time, I felt it was a mistake to use the teacher stipend as a means to that end," Gov.-elect Cox wrote.

The governor-elect, who has been criticized for his silence on the issue, explained what went on behind closed-doors.

"Politics as sport is all about scoring easy points. A snarky tweet and a terse statement to reporters would have 1) scored points, 2) been really entertaining and 3) accomplished nothing. That was the fun, dopamine, 1000 retweet, cotton candy option. It’s what we expect now," he wrote. "But here’s the thing, Speaker Brad Wilson is an incredible public servant. He isn’t a bomb thrower and is always willing to work for best outcomes. I knew he wouldn’t make this decision for sport. And so I waited until passions could die down and we could talk. And we did."

"I shared my thoughts and frustrations and he shared his logic and feelings. Ultimately we came to an understanding and commitment to work to get that money to all teachers and find a way to safely open schools. That’s the broccoli. It’s boring and laborious. But there’s more," he continued. "I applaud the announcement yesterday of an agreement to open schools safely. And while the stipend was a catalyst for discussion, the biggest driver was that teachers will be vaccinated soon. But you probably don’t know how that decision happened."

Gov.-elect Cox disclosed that the pressure to move teachers up on the vaccination priority list came from Speaker Wilson.

"Over the past few weeks we worked hard to make a change to move teachers into the first wave of vaccinations. But the catalyst for that came out of a conversation I had with...yep...Speaker Wilson and majority leadership. They care deeply about teachers and deserve credit," he wrote.

"Why do I share all of this? Because I was very close to doing the easy thing, but would have missed an opportunity to build relationships and work to get to the best outcome. Being patient and not assuming the worst is less fun but more productive. And it’s old-fashioned."