March 2017, Vol. 1

Attracting and retaining teachers through creative, free perks

By Zach DiSchiano

In the midst of a legislative session in which school funding may be further reduced, districts are tasked with creating new ways to offer more benefits with fewer resources.

As hiring season approaches and the talent pool continues to shrink, each district must examine methods to present itself as a more attractive destination for new teachers to seek employment. There are a few different ways to do this, from highlighting district culture to emphasizing the teacher career pathway plans in place. But there’s one word on everyone’s mind these days that can separate a good workplace from a great one: benefits.

Employees want to know what a district can offer them in addition to a great career path and a friendly staff. Work-life balance is important, and offering helpful perks can prove a district’s commitment to its employees’ well-being.

The challenge is in figuring out what your district can offer without incurring additional costs. Fortunately, we can look to other districts and even companies in the private sector to generate some ideas.

North East ISD

North East ISD partnered with several local businesses to provide discounts for their employees. They offer special coupons to grocery stores, restaurants, and even department stores like J. Crew.

They also leveraged their location in San Antonio and worked out deals with Six Flags Fiesta Texas, Schlitterbahn Waterparks, and Sea World to get discounted tickets for district staff.

These benefits are relatively easy to acquire. Many local businesses are looking for ways to give back to the community, and the larger corporations benefit from charitable giving through tax breaks and good PR. It could be as easy as picking up the phone or emailing their promotions department.

Eanes ISD

Eanes ISD offers some great benefits for teachers with kids. The Eanes After School Youth (EASY) Care program provides after school child care through their Community Education Department. The EASY CARE program, staffed by EISD employees, provides a high-quality, curriculum-based childcare and enrichment program for K-5 students onsite at all six elementary school campuses. Childcare is from school dismissal to 6pm.

EISD also provides tuition-free attendance for employee’s children who live outside the district boundaries. Additionally, they offer affordable pre-school child care at the Child Development Center.

McKinney ISD

At the McKinney ISD Website, there’s a full list of perks for employees featuring more than 100 discounted services, ranging from home security systems to wireless services and even chiropractic care.

Everyone enjoys a free meal, and although McKinney ISD can’t broker that impressive of a deal, they were able to secure sizeable discounts to multiple local and national chain restaurants, like Jimmy John’s, Chicken Express, Texas Roadhouse, and Chick-Fil-A.

Like North East ISD, McKinney takes advantage of its location and offers marked-down tickets to Texas Rangers baseball games and other local entertainment venues.

Common corporate perks

There are other benefits districts can offer that haven’t quite found their way into mainstream public education use. Knowing the importance of employee wellness, some companies offer on-site yoga classes where they invite a teacher to come to their office and teach a session. The employees still pay for the service, but the convenience of having a fitness instructor come to them instead of the other way around is largely beneficial and saves precious time. Districts could offer the same thing, using the gymnasium or even a vacant classroom to host a fitness session.

Another popular perk in the corporate world is having a dry cleaning delivery service. Employees drop off their dry cleaning at a central location and the service collects and returns all orders. Again, the cost falls on the employees, but the convenience makes it worthwhile. The district is saving them more time by orchestrating the service. The only investment would be finding a closet or storage area that is easily accessible.

Many companies provide employees access to a group insurance program, such as car, home, and life insurance, with special low rates. The company may offer employees the option to pay premiums through payroll deduction.

Leveraging benefits already in place

One benefit all districts can emphasize is loan forgiveness. Student debt weighs heavy on a millennial’s mind and the teaching profession is the best in the world at solving that problem. Districts can tell prospective employees about loan forgiveness programs and explain eligibility requirements. If positioned the right way, this may be a strategy to help retain those teachers in your district for an extended time.

Benefits are a key component when teachers are deciding where they want to work. Offering creative perks that make their lives easier or more frugal can sway their decision to come on board and stay in your favor. Talk to local businesses about what they are willing to offer America’s most underappreciated employees, and they are sure to find some room in the budget to help out in some way.