After the financial crisis swept the globe in 2008, the economic downturn took its toll not only on the private sector but also on the public domain. Many states cut income taxes, and those actions subsequently diminished the primary source of funding for educational institutions. More than 10 years later, the negative effects of the recession still ripple across public schools in the K-12 segment.
With the cost of labor, benefits, and retirement obligations eating up large chunks of operational budgets, many businesses increasingly look to staffing agencies to save money. These agencies mostly serve the manufacturing and service industries, but as needs become more specialized, some employment staffers have narrowed their focus to school districts.
Often established by former educators and stakeholders in school systems, professional school staffing companies run the gamut between placing daily substitute teachers and support staff in schools to providing full-time “permanent placement” support positions such as instructional assistants; and clerical, food service, custodial, and maintenance staff. They also reduce heavy workloads on overtaxed administrative staff by handling the human resources, payroll, and absence management themselves.
Creative Solution to Budget Cuts #1: Rethink Human Resources
A school’s human resources team wears a lot of hats. In districts that don’t have a dedicated HR team, multitasking across various departments is generally the way the job gets done. In either case, scholastic staffing agencies act as a trusted partner to a school’s dedicated HR personnel or the employees that handle HR functions. As responsibilities increase and budgets shrink (the national average being a 13.6% decrease since 2008), hiring additional employees to remove the administrative workload from existing staffers is rarely an option.
Consider the case of filling classrooms with substitute teachers. Internal HR personnel must source, recruit, and onboard employees who may only be with the district for a day. And they must still deal with the daily issues of the current employee population. Contracting substitute staffing provides wholesale solutions to each aspect of placing substitutes within the district—from vetting to interviewing to training to monitoring performance.
Creative Solution to Budget Cuts #2: Outsource Substitute Payroll
Handling payroll duties is vital for two of many reasons. Employees—both temporary and permanent—need to get paid, and accurate records must be kept for tax and auditing purposes. The process only becomes more convoluted in schools where temporary employees come and go quite often. Tax laws and reporting requirements, which change constantly, garner a lot of attention as any missteps could create administrative headaches for employees or financial consequences with government agencies.
Managing the entry and exits of substitute teachers and other temporary staff can create a drag on dedicated staff. Tracking hours, paying fill-in teachers, and compiling quarterly tax data only adds to an already teeming task list. Expert school staffing companies not only find quality employees but also manage the entire spectrum of payroll for those individuals the agencies bring in. When you factor in the median salary of an in-house payroll specialist, which commonly hovers around $45,000, the cost-savings benefit of outsourced payroll support becomes readily apparent.
Creative Solution to Budget Cuts #3: Streamline Absence Management
Some schools create hotlines or dedicated inboxes for teachers to call off from work. It’s a convenient solution but this process necessitates that someone in the district is always on the other end of the phone line or email chain. In the event of a spontaneous teacher illness or personal issue, a substitute must then be located and scheduled—regardless of the time of day or night. The trial-and-error process of managing the absence consumes a considerable amount of time. For the individual tasked with absence management for substitute teachers, the time adds up, not to mention the wasted resources when administrators are pulled away from their primary duties to manage a classroom.
Finding qualified individuals to fill in when a teacher takes a personal day is yet another task that staffing agencies can remove from a district’s full plate. Naturally, the performance of the agency must be assessed regularly, but the daily duties run on autopilot.
The Most Creative Solution for Addressing Your School’s Budget Cuts
School districts seeking creative, catch-all solutions to staffing amid budget cuts should begin by assessing the option of a staffing agency that provides temporary or permanent placement. These external partners can handle all the administrative details around a new hire—from HR and payroll to streamlining absence management and optimizing fill rates. When you need to assess your budget requirements and your allotted substitute resources, it’s best to look for a staffing partner that offers affordability, custom solutions, and a more intuitive HR and payroll experience.
Ed Keating is a school business manager who blogs about concrete solutions to the many financial and administrative issues facing school districts today. In his spare time, Ed enjoys fishing, backpacking, and camping with his wife and two daughters, Molly and Anne.