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The Bottom Line

    Ask Jess: Flexible Teacher Staffing?

    In this first installment of Ask Jess (think Dear Abby for ed finance), we dig into classroom teacher vacancies and flexible staffing opportunities.

    Written by

    Dear Jess: Many of the districts I work with would be open to filling classroom teacher vacancies with part-time employees but say they can’t afford to pay benefits for employees who are less than full-time.

    How can districts offer flexible staffing and benefits (which might be needed to compete in today’s job market)? 

    Thanks for this great question! In addition to the direct costs of part-time wages and benefits, it's important to consider and compare the costs of chronic vacancies, high turnover, and missed opportunities.


    Recruiting & Hiring


    For every day that a position goes unfilled, consider the actual and opportunity cost of district HR staff. When district staff spend time on recruitment and hiring for positions that could be filled by a ready and waiting pool of part-time applicants, there is both the real cost of time on task as well as the opportunity cost of time and energy that could be redirected to recruitment and hiring for the most essential full-time positions. Then again, having more part-time staff may lead to some additional costs around timecard approval and simply having more employees. These costs must be considered and balanced.


    Internal Recruitment Pipeline

    Will these candidates necessarily always be part-time employees, or do some of them have the opportunity to grow into full-time certified staff with some support in the way of certification pathways? Is the district missing out on an opportunity to develop an internal pipeline of permanent full-time staff because of a reluctance to pay the benefits’ cost in the short-term? 


    Substitute Costs


    How do the costs of part-time staff compare to the costs of finding, placing, and compensating long-term substitutes while incurring the ongoing HR costs to fill these positions permanently? In addition to the financial costs, what are the potential costs to student learning and/or school culture with a rotating cast of subs in lieu of consistent part-time employees? Might these financial costs be overshadowed by the hard-to-quantify costs of missed learning opportunities, student behavior challenges, and the social-emotional support of permanent staff—not to mention the ripple effects on the mental and physical health of other permanent staff? 


    Turnover Reduction

    Related to the direct and indirect costs laid out above for initial hiring, how might offering competitive benefits reduce turnover of part-time staff? Especially when you factor in the costs to school culture and climate that comes with staff turnover, it’s likely that the replacement costs of under-compensating staff will outweigh the marginal cost of more competitive wages and benefits. 


    Cost-Benefit Analysis

    In December 2022, Allovue worked with the EdWeek Research Center to poll 1,303 U.S.-based educators. Participants included 337 school district leaders, 340 principals/vice principals, and 626 teachers. One finding was that regardless of role, educators vastly underestimate the monetary value of their benefits. It’s unclear if this is due to lack of knowledge—it may be that even being aware of what benefits they receive, they value those benefits well below the true cost. Carefully consider which benefits are cost effective and highly valued by staff before assuming this marginal cost.

    In a you continue to weigh the costs and benefits (and costs of benefits) for more flexible staffing plans, just make sure you are zoomed out far enough to see and analyze the whole picture!




    The world of K-12 education finance is complicated and convoluted (on a good day!) Jess Gartner, #edfintech pioneer and founder of Allovue, is responding to your public school finance questions in her column, Ask Jess.


    Jess Gartner

    Jess Gartner is the founder and CEO of Allovue, where edtech meets fintech - #edfintech! Allovue was founded by educators, for educators. We combine powerful financial technology with education data, giving administrators the power to connect spending to student achievement. Jess has been featured as one of Forbes Magazine’s 30 Under 30 in Education (2015, 2016 All-Star), The Baltimore Sun’s Women to Watch (2013), and Baltimore Magazine’s 40 Under 40 (2013). In 2014, she was recognized as the Maryland Smart CEO Innovator of the Year in the Emerging Business category. Before founding Allovue, Jess studied education policy at the University of Pennsylvania and taught in schools around the world, including Thailand, South Africa, Philadelphia, and Baltimore. She taught middle school humanities in Baltimore City and received her M.A. in teaching from Johns Hopkins University.