How the Finance Office Can Alleviate Ohio’s Teacher Shortage Problems



Providing teachers more control over classroom decisions is far more financially effective and efficient than trying to find ways to boost teacher salaries.

By Jamie Rosenberg and Max McGee

If a teacher were choosing employment between two districts and District A gave each teacher a classroom budgeting tool that contained some funds for supplies, easy access to crowdfunding tools, additional funding that may originate from federal or local grants or PTA, and District B did not, what district do you think the teacher will choose to work for?

“A 10% increase in trust has the same effect as a 30% increase in pay,” writes Covey, Link, and Merrill.  With the financial challenges facing school districts in every state across the country, investing in trust makes sound financial sense and more importantly is likely to increase teacher retention rate and be a competitive advantage for recruitment.  

Teachers seek out districts and schools where faculty are trusted, respected, and appreciated.  With the ever-increasing demands for accountability, following a common core curriculum, local and state mandates, teacher autonomy is a rare commodity.  Yet giving teachers autonomy and agency over instructional decisions is arguably the most effective way for administrators and board members to let teachers know they are trusted, respected, and appreciated. 
Ohio school districts are plagued by teacher shortages.  Linda Darling-Hammond and her team at the Learning Policy Institute have researched the reasons teacher leave the profession and cite “lack of support for new teachers and challenging working conditions” as two of the top five reasons.  Some examples of challenging working conditions include relationships with principals, overwhelming demands related to school accountability and assessment measures, and lack of opportunities to collaborate with colleagues.  

Poor compensation is a third reason, a problem compounded by the fact that teachers often spend several hundred dollars a year out of their own pocket for materials, supplies, and student incentives.  Moreover, if teachers are fortunate enough to be reimbursed for some purchases, they usually must keep track of paper receipts, identify budget codes, submit them with a form and then wait at least a month for formal approval before receiving their reimbursement. 

Ohio school districts should invest in trust by creating conditions and taking tangible, purposeful measures that actually “walked the talk” of respecting, valuing, and appreciating teachers that they could not only enhance morale and improve their school climate measures but also increase teacher retention, attract the best new teachers as well as veterans from other districts, and thus improve student achievement.  

Moreover, investing in ameliorating challenging working conditions and supporting teachers by providing more control over classroom decisions and more opportunities to take charge of their own instructional time, as well as the ability to make purchases without bureaucratic red tape or cutting into their own limited compensation will be far more financially effective and efficient than trying to find ways to boost teacher salaries as any significant increase in salary will have hidden costs to teachers in terms of job cuts, larger class sizes, and less support. 

Financial technology could have positive effects on your district, from teacher recruitment and retention efforts all the way to classroom learning for students. Consider investing in technology that will propel your district forward!

Jamie Rosenberg is the founder and chief executive officer of ClassWallet.  

Max McGee is president of Hazard, Young, Attea and Associates, specializing in executive searches and school governance consulting and support.


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