The Weeds in a Greener Pasture: Five Cost Considerations of Changing School Districts

Given the current funding for teacher salaries and the prospect of minimum salary increases in the future, teachers seek higher paying jobs in other districts as an avenue to increase their income without having to earn an advanced degree or going into administration.  When considering employment in a higher paying school district, several cost considerations need to be evaluated before taking the position.  What are these costs consideration, and how do the cost considerations impact you?

Cost Consideration #1: Commuting
Commuting cost encompasses fuel, wear and tear on your vehicle, travel time, and insurance premium. The cost estimate for a vehicle is .47 cents per mile. The formula to calculate the cost is: (.47) x (round trip mileage) x (number of workdays – typically 200 days). Divide the total cost by 10 (200-day contract) for the cost per month.
The second cost is commuting time. Time is one commodity that cannot be purchased. The formula for commute time cost is: (round trip time) x (number of workdays – typically 200). Divide by 10 (200-day contract) for the time spent per month commuting to and from work.
Insurance premium is the third cost. Driving more miles per year may increase your insurance premium. Check with your insurance carrier to verify if there will be any increase in your auto insurance premium.

Cost Consideration #2: Health Insurance
School districts’ funding of health insurance varies from district to district and the variance can be significant.  Compare the cost and verify that your spouse and family can participate in school district’s health insurance plan.  Utilize a school district’s Human Resource department to provide health insurance costs and plan participation.

Cost Consideration #3: Health Insurance upon Retirement
School districts’ policies regarding health insurance for retirees who retire before the age of 65 is the most overlooked “cost.”   School districts typically have a policy for partial payment of a teacher’s health insurance premium upon retirement before the age of 65.  These policies vary widely from district to district.  You need to verify the retirement policy’s required years of service to qualify for this benefit.  Vested time (required years of service) will either be continuous years of service or cumulative years of service.  The preference being cumulative years of service.

Providing partial payment of health insurance premiums upon retirement is a recruitment tool for school districts.  Health insurance is expensive and a tremendous liability for school districts, resulting in school districts modifying this benefit in order to reduce their cost.  The best way to verify this benefit is to ask Human Resources about the district’s policy.  Failure to verify this benefit can have a significant impact on your retirement timeline.  Writing.

Cost Consideration #4: Salary Schedule
District salary schedules vary from district to district.  Compare the salary schedule of your current district to the salary schedule of the district you are considering.   Compare your salary at five (5) years of service, 10 years of service, 15 years of service, and 20 years of service.  It is always more advantageous to have a higher salary because TCRS retirement is calculated on a teacher’s five (5) highest consecutive years average salary.  What may seem a lucrative increase in salary at the low end of the salary schedule may not be as lucrative as the high end of the salary schedule.

One of the strategies school districts employ to attract first year teachers is to revise the district’s salary schedule by moving money from the high end of the salary schedule (15 or 20+ years of service) to the beginning of the salary schedule.

Cost Considerations #5: Tenure
Per the Tennessee Department of Education’s New Tenure Law, Frequently Asked Questions:

“9. Can a teacher who transfers to a new LEA and is allowed by the new LEA to transfer their tenure status earned in the previous LEA ever lose tenure status?

It depends on when tenure was attained originally. A teacher who attained tenure originally prior to July 1, 2011, and then is authorized to transfer their tenure status to a new LEA, may not lose tenure status. A teacher who attains tenure after July 1, 2011 and then is authorized to transfer their tenure status to a new LEA is subject to the requirements in PC 70 for maintaining tenure status. Such teacher shall be returned to probationary status after receiving two (2) consecutive years of evaluations demonstrating an overall performance effectiveness level of “below expectations” or “significantly below expectations”, as provided by the evaluation guidelines adopted by the state board of education pursuant to § 49-1-302.” (p. 2-3)

Tenure is granted by the school board; always check the school district’s tenure policy. 

Note:  All communications regarding benefits and salary should be documented in writing.

The information provided is not legal advice and should not be construed as legal advice.  The information is provided to promote awareness.

Michael Gonzales, Ed. D.
Professional Educators of Tennessee
Local Leader


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