Clear Creek ISD manages an annual budget of more than $480 million. And as we recently learned from published reports, each year CCISD fails to spend between $2 million and $5 million from its budget.
For you and me, in relation to our household budgets, that seems like an enormous amount of money. For CCISD, it is merely a drop in the bucket. However, that unspent funding represents a huge opportunity to provide meaningful assistance to teachers.
I’m sure you have plenty of ideas as well, and I hope to hear them. But I wanted to highlight just three ideas I had to use unspent funding to make a difference for our hard-working educators.
Increase District Contribution to Employee Health Insurance
Health insurance is costly for everyone these days, and usually the more people you add to your health coverage, the more it costs. But for CCISD teachers, the cost of health insurance for dependents is exorbitant.
For the 2019-2020 school year, a single employee in CCISD paid $68 per month for health insurance. When adding children, that cost went up to $377 per month. However, the dramatic increase comes when the employee has to add a spouse: $696 per month for just the employee and spouse, and $1,020 per month for the employee, spouse, and their children. That’s for TRS-ActiveCare-1, which is the lowest level of coverage offered.
But what if we used that $2 million to $5 million to bring down the costs for teachers with families? I for one don’t want the cost of healthcare to be the reason why our best, most experienced educators leave CCISD. For district employees married to other district employees, and for those who need to carry insurance coverage for their families due to pandemic-related job losses, reducing the cost of health insurance premiums would make a significant financial impact. Better still, if we plan this correctly, we may be able to reduce premiums and deductibles across the board for all employees.
We want to encourage CCISD’s dedicated, experienced employees to stay in CCISD, to ensure they know that this is a district that wants them to spend their careers here, and one of the most meaningful ways to spend surplus budget funds is to lower health insurance costs. But that can’t be done as a spur-of-the-moment spending decision. It requires long-term budgeting and planning.
Assist Teachers with Classroom Supply Purchases
It’s no secret that teachers spend a lot of their own personal funds on classroom supplies and often rely on the generosity of parents when they run out. Like many parents, I’ve often sent in items when my child’s teacher says there’s a need, but I know it’s not enough.
While the district does offer some reimbursement, and local PTAs help out as well, our teachers are still laying out a lot of their own money to make sure our children have manipulatives, classroom libraries, and everyday items like dry-erase markers, construction paper, and glue sticks.
With the district’s purchasing power and a portion of the unused $2 million to $5 million, we could set up a way to dramatically lower the cost of supplies for educators. That can include:
- A classroom supplies reimbursement fund for each school to administer as it sees appropriate
- A centralized “supply room” for frequently purchased items, paid for by the district and purchased at wholesale prices
- An ordering system in the district that allows teachers to purchase “supply room” items at cost.
As financially fortunate as CCISD is relative to other districts, there is no excuse for not adequately budgeting for classroom supplies. And considering how much our teachers already give to our students, they shouldn’t have to spend their own money to make up the difference. We can do better, but again, this requires a strategic approach to budgeting that involves careful planning and opportunistic spending.
Invest in Employee Wellness Programs
Students aren’t the only ones who have faced mental and emotional struggles, particularly in the past year. Plus with all the day-to-day stress that our educators and staff face, we need to make sure we as a district are supporting them as people.
Employee wellness programs that address the whole person can go a long way toward increasing morale and job satisfaction, and ultimately making CCISD a place where talented educators want to spend their careers. I would start by conducting a district-wide survey to understand the needs of teachers and staff and ensure we tailor wellness initiatives to the needs and wants of employees. These programs can include:
- Before work, after work, or lunchtime yoga or group exercise classes. Once we open up campuses to outside visitors, we can likely find parent volunteers who are certified as yoga teachers or group exercise instructors who would be willing to run classes.
- Lunch and learn sessions on mindfulness, meditation, stress management, nutrition, or any other topic that interests employees at a particular campus. Once again, in many cases, parent volunteers or community volunteers would be willing to participate.
- District-employed wellness coaches whose entire jobs would be focused on visiting campuses, speaking with educators, assessing needs, and making sure wellness programs are implemented and effective.
Employee wellness programs also make sense financially. A Harvard study found that for every dollar spent on employee wellness, medical costs decrease by $3.27. Not only do wellness programs offer a solid return on investment, but in these difficult times, they’re also just the right thing to do.
These are just a few ways to help teachers and be more responsible with the district’s budget, and ultimately with your tax dollars. The kind of financial leadership I intend to provide as a Trustee will mean holding the administration to its budget estimates, finding opportunities for cost savings, and when we are fortunate enough to have a surplus, putting it back into our district in a meaningful way that will positively impact our teachers on a daily basis. As always, I’d love to hear your ideas!