Education

Some Wake County teachers mistakenly got a bonus. Now they have to give it back.

Washington Elementary School student Averye Morrison (left) works with friends Kayla Lewis (center) and Pearl Hollingsworth on a math problem in class in December.
Washington Elementary School student Averye Morrison (left) works with friends Kayla Lewis (center) and Pearl Hollingsworth on a math problem in class in December. cliddy@newsobserver.com

More than 115 Wake County teachers mistakenly received merit bonuses from the state in their January paychecks, and the school system is taking back the money.

Wake sent an email Wednesday to employees that said 117 teachers were mistakenly paid the bonus money because there was “an error in processing the data file provided to the district from the state.”

“It is with tremendous regret that I must inform you that you have received a bonus in your January paycheck in error,” the email said. “Per North Carolina state law, we must collect the overpayment of the bonus.”

Lisa Luten, a spokeswoman for Wake schools, said the district will work with affected teachers to return the money. Initially, the teachers said the bonus money would be deducted from their February paychecks.

About 8,800 teachers across North Carolina are receiving bonuses this week based on their students’ performance in 2017.

Teachers were eligible for bonuses if they ranked in the top 25 percent for student growth in reading for third through fifth grade or in math for fourth through eighth grade. High school teachers were eligible if their students earned certifications or credentials in career-technical classes or earned high scores on Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate or Cambridge Advanced International Certificate of Education exams.

State bonuses for elementary and middle school teachers averaged about $3,300. High school teachers’ bonuses ranged from $25 to $3,500.

More North Carolina teachers were eligible for the state merit bonus this year than in 2017, the first year of the program, when just third-grade and some high school teachers could get the extra money. The state set aside almost $41 million for this year’s bonuses.

The state rolled out $14 million in merit bonuses in 2017, rewarding teachers based on third-grade reading tests and college-level exams for high schoolers.

Pressley Baird: 919-829-8935, @pressleybaird

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