Arizona’s Largest High School District Will Pay Teachers and Students For Getting Vaccinated

Photo by Jake Hines

By Lorraine Longhi

September 16, 2021

The Phoenix Union High School District announced the campaign last week in an attempt to get 85% of its school community vaccinated.

Students and staff in Arizona’s largest high school district could see extra money in their wallets next month in exchange for being vaccinated.

As part of an effort to get 85% of its school community vaccinated, the Phoenix Union High School District announced last week that all students and staff who are fully vaccinated will receive between $100-$200.

Students who are fully vaccinated by Monday, Oct. 11, will receive a $100 gift card when they provide proof of their vaccination card. Staff members who upload proof of their vaccination card once the district reaches the 85% threshold will receive a one-time $200 payout.

The district said in a statement they were striving for an 85% vaccination rate in order to achieve herd immunity, which protects a population from the spread of COVID-19 once enough of them have gained immunity toward the virus.

“Our goal…is to keep you in school, keep you learning, keep clubs and sports and activities going, not just this quarter but throughout the year,” Phoenix Union Superintendent Dr. Chad Gestson said in a video addressing students about the campaign.

Schools throughout the district will also track their campus’ progress throughout the vaccination campaign. The first large and small schools in the district to achieve the 85% vaccination rate will each receive a prize. 

Schools Begin Using Financial Incentives To Get Students Vaccinated 

The district’s vaccination campaign comes as discussions around mask-wearing and vaccine mandates have divided school communities and led to tense confrontations at school board meetings around the state. 

Mask requirements are prohibited in Arizona public schools, along with vaccine requirements, under legislation passed by the state’s GOP-controlled legislature earlier this summer and signed by Gov. Doug Ducey. However, a Maricopa County judge ruled last month that the law does not take effect until Sept. 29. 

A poll of Arizona voters conducted by the Arizona School Boards Association found that 57% of Arizona voters supported mask requirements in schools.  

The move to reimburse students and staff for getting vaccinated also has precedent around the country: School districts in Wisconsin, South Carolina and Illinois have also offered a financial incentive to students who get vaccinated.

On Tuesday, Arizona reported 2,609 new cases of COVID-19. Earlier this month, Maricopa County health officials reported that children comprise 25% of new cases of COVID-19 and 6% of hospitalizations.

As of Sept. 9, 37 children in Arizona have died from COVID-19 related deaths since last May, the second-highest number in the country behind Texas, according to data from the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Phoenix Union was among the last districts to resume in-person classes after schools turned to online learning during the 2020-2021 school year, only doing so after Ducey ordered schools to return.

Earlier this summer, the district became the first in the state to announce that it would require masks despite the state law prohibiting them, a decision that it has since had to defend in court. The district’s decision would later prompt a slew of other districts to follow its example in requiring masks.

“Thank you for all you have done to keep each other safe and supported so far this school year,” Gestson said in a video addressing staff last week. 

For more information about vaccination events and COVID testing throughout the district, visit


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