In a yahoo group for homeschool leaders Amy posed a familiar problem: paying teachers at a homeschool co-op
For the past several years, our group has spent more (thousands more) than we have charged our members. We’re not technically “in the red” because of more prosperous years in the past. The reason we are spending so much money is that over 90% of our income goes to paying our parent-teachers ($15-$20/hour)! The rest of the money goes toward classroom supplies. I am sure that most parents are unaware of how the finances of this group are managed.
Have you heard of groups paying their teacher/parents? What do I need to understand about the various homeschool support and cooperative group structures that I don’t currently comprehend? Help!
Your situation sounds very familiar to me. I too was treasurer of my 40 family co-op and found that 75% of our budget was going to pay 4 paid teachers. The other 20 teachers were volunteer parents, myself included. Not all the families were using a paid teacher, but all were chipping in to pay for them. We also were finding that people were offering to teach because they thought they could get paid. We were losing our cooperative spirit. I knew something needed to change.
About the same time I was helping another homeschool group with some independent contractor/employee issues with the IRS. I wrote about it on my blog. You can read about it here (Is your homeschool group’s hired teacher really an employee?) and here (Update on Independent Contractors). We decided to follow IRS guidelines and have the parents pay the teachers directly, like you would pay a piano teacher. The co-op was no longer paying the teachers.
I did some number crunching and found that we could lower our co-op fee from $150/family/semester to $75/family/semester. In addition we offered a $50 discount for teaching a class. What happened was amazing! Wonderful, talented homeschooling mothers volunteered to teach a class! We had more volunteers than we could accommodate. REALLY! If a mother volunteers to teach a class she only pays $25/semester for her family to attend 3 hours of classes at our co-op. If her child attends one of our paid classes (there are only 3, guitar, art and Spanish) then she pays the teacher directly. For example, I pay $65/semester for my daughter to take an art class. I think the teacher is worth it. You can visit my co-op’s website at www.masoncoop.org for details.
This got us out of the sticky employee/IC situation with the IRS. I’m writing fewer checks. It made my job as treasurer a lot easier and no 1099MISC forms at the end of the year. No one complained. The spirit of cooperation has returned. YEAH! I’ll also add that we let the volunteers decide what they wish to teach. If we cannot find a Spanish volunteer, no Spanish class is offered. If enough parents want Spanish we may see if a teacher can come to the co-op. We give her a room and she collects her fees from the parents directly.
I wrote a chapter in my ebook Money Management for Homeschool Groups on employee/IC status. You can find it all on my website www.HomeschoolCPA.com Look under ‘Resources’. The issue of paying teachers as employees is too important to ignore. Your group may have to consider some big changes.
Carol Topp, CPA