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MPS possible vaccine incentives could cost district millions

Posted at 7:01 PM, Sep 07, 2021

MILWAUKEE — Milwaukee Public Schools (MPS) is considering a number of incentives for employees if the district pushes ahead with a vaccine mandate.

According to a recent MPS report, there are several options, including cash.

The district is now considering between $100 and $500 a person. Paid time off, MPS merchandise, gift cards and raffle prizes are also being discussed.

MPS would be following the example of many school districts around the country that are offering a range of cash and alternative incentives.

Angela Harris, chairwoman of the Black Educators Caucus and an MPS elementary school teacher, believes incentives could boost the vaccination rate.

"To be able to provide folks with some additional income and be able to protect ourselves and our students is a win-win for everybody, said Harris. ​

The push to vaccinate comes as kids return to classrooms amid the highest level of youth COVID cases in nine months.

Last week, 35 staff and 115 MPS students tested positive for Covid-19, up from 59 student positive cases the week before.

During that same week, there were 410 new cases among people 17 and younger, nearly 33 percent of the city's total cases.

Backers of a vaccine mandate say they want to protect students 12 and younger. That age group is still unable to receive the vaccine as researchers continue to study the potential health impacts for people that young.

Protection, influenced by incentives, comes at a cost.

MPS estimates show, at a minimum of $100 a person, the district would pay out more than $4 million if all those eligible are vaccinated and receive the incentive.

They'd pay out nearly 13 million if incentives were set at $300 dollars a person.

Chairwoman Harris, while behind incentives, believes it's just one small part of boosting vaccination rates.

"Most importantly, is to really inform people about the benefits of getting the Covid-19 vaccine. I think there's a lot of misinformation surrounding the vaccinations and long-term side effects."

If a mandate passes for the district, all employees must submit proof of vaccination by November first unless a reasonable religious or medical accommodation is approved.

Those who refuse would be placed on leave and eventually fired if they refuse to comply.

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