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Granite School District opening free medical center for its teachers

Granite School District Director of Communications Ben Horsley told KSL Newsradio's Dave & Dujanovic that the district is planning on opening a medical center that will be free for its teachers. He also asked that parents keep their sick kid at home. (Photo: Kristin Murphy / Deseret News)

The Granite School District is trying a different approach to lure in better teachers. Instead of trying to compete with other districts’ salaries, they’re going to offer their teachers something else: free health care.

The district is currently building a medical center in West Valley City, Granite School District Communications Director Ben Horsley told KSL Newsradio’s Dave & Dujanovic. At that medical center, employees of the district will be able to get nearly every health care need they might have taken care free of charge.

Utah’s teacher shortage

Granite School District Teacher

Diamond Ridge Elementary Principal Debbie Koji helps students make their way to their classes. (Photo: Scott G. Winterton, Deseret News)

Utah has been struggling with a teacher shortage for years. The state’s taken a number of steps to fix it, including changing teacher licensing requirements, hiring out-of-state, and discussing pay raises across the board, but so far, the shortage persists.

The obvious solution seems to be to raise teacher salaries, but Horsley says that’s not as easy of a fix as it sounds. Many states, he says, pay new teachers from $10,000 to $20,000 more than Utah does. For Utah to compete with its neighbors, the salary hikes would have to be drastic.

That salary discrepancy raises some concerns with teachers sourced from out-of-state, as well, Horsley believes.

“Those teachers are looking to get a job in their own home state first before they’ll even consider something out-of-state like Utah,” he told Dave & Dujanovic. “Think about that. If they can’t get a job in their home state, where the salary’s higher, they’re looking at us as a second choice.”

That means that the highest-rated teachers will stay in their own state, where they can make more money, while – for the most part – it will probably be lower-rated teachers signing up to teach in Utah.

Lowering licensing standards, of course, suffers from the same problems. From the start, teachers have openly decried that idea, complaining that it will “degrade” the teaching profession.

That’s why the Granite School District is looking for different solutions to lure in the best talent possible. They believe that their new medical center just might be the solution.

Granite School District’s medical center

Granite Wellness Center

An artist’s rendering of the Granite Wellness Center, slated to open this spring. (Photo: Granite School District)

For Granite School District employees, Hosley says, every service offered at their new medical care center will be completely free of charge, including prescriptions.

Teachers, in other words, will receive completely free health care services and medication, with no co-payments, as long as they’re willing to make sure they get all their services done at the school district’s own clinic.

That rosy deal won’t be available if they have to make an emergency trip to a different hospital, but Horsley says that the health care clinic will be capable of taking care of “roughly almost 80 percent” of health care needs.

The medical center is being funded through the school district’s self-insured fund. Building a whole new medical facility might sound like a heavy burden for an insurance fund. Surprisingly, however, Horsley says that, compared to traditional health insurance, the opportunity to take care of teachers in-house will actually save the district money in the long run.

It remains to be seen whether the health care clinic will be enough to lure in new teachers, but the district will find out soon enough. The Granite School District Wellness Center is slated to open this spring.

More to the story

Granite School District’s plan is a bold one, but it’s not the only one on the table. Sen. Kamala Harris, D-California, has promised to increase teachers’ salaries by $13,500 a year across the nation if she becomes President.

KSL Newsradio’s Dave & Dujanovic broke down both ideas – and just how practical they really are – on the air earlier today. If you missed their discussion live, you can still catch it – including their conversation with Ben Horsley – on the Dave & Dujanovic podcast.

Dave & Dujanovic can be heard weekdays from 9 a.m. to noon on KSL Newsradio. Users can find the show on the KSL Newsradio website and app, as well as Apple Podcasts and Google Play.

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