The Illinois budget crisis hit rural school districts hard. Health Care Costs were on an upward trajectory, while property values were on the decline, shrinking school tax assessments. So when a key health carrier lowered the threshold for self-funding groups, Laurie Miller pounced on the opportunity to organize a rural school-based purchasing pool. The Illinois Scholastic Cooperative launched September 1, 2016 with seven districts and 1,000 lives.
“It was a huge cultural shift,” said Scott Bloomquist, superintendent of Winnebago Community Unit School District 323 in Winnebago, Il. He said it was no small feat getting all of the districts on the same page, but that if anyone could have made it happen, it was Miller.
“Everybody trusts her,” he said. “When she makes a recommendation, we almost immediately get buy-in…She knows her stuff.”
The entire group realized an immediate 5 per cent savings overall, and one district avoided an 18 percent stand-alone renewal hit. ISC is now getting the attention of other cash-strapped districts that typically operate with just a superintendent and a bookkeeper handling the programs. All of Miller’s school district clients say they rely heavily on her expertise and her deep commitment to helping rural schools succeed.
“I don’t think there’s ever been a year where she hasn’t done something innovative for us,” said Tom Mahoney, superintendent of Oregon Community School District 220 in Oregon, Il.