California Educator

November 2012

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IS IT OK FOR TEACHERS TO PAY FOR SUPPLIES OUT OF POCKET? Photos by Scott Buschman NO YES IF TE ACHERS WANT TO PAY for supplies out of pocket, it's OK, as long as it's voluntary. I pay for supplies because it is important to me that my students have what they need to func- tion in the classroom. I spend around $1,000 annually, depending upon the needs of my students and the needs of my class. Most of our students come from working and low-income families who may struggle to get the basic needs in the family met. Yes, it is a struggle. My income decreases every year; the needs of the students don't. But it seems like the right thing to do, because it takes the anxiety of needing something out of the equation of educating students. If a child is worried about needing something for school, it's difficult to focus. Another benefit is control: I am providing exactly the items I want my students to have, as well as providing uniformity to manage the classroom, such as color-coded notebooks. And there is a level of quality control that I can provide, so that students are not coming to school with items that won't last the year. In some cases it is because I want my students to have something that will result in a valuable learning experience for them, and there may be no other means to make it happen. I try to find high-quality, discount items before school be- gins and throughout the year. It's easier that way. I don't want any of my students to be put in the position of having to tell me they don't have something they need, and then having to ask for help to provide it. I would rather take care of it up front, so we can do what we are there to do, without the worry. For me, there are many reasons that it is worth it; probably the most notable is that maybe it makes a difference in the life of a student. Maybe you won't ever see the result of what you did, but that doesn't mean it's not important. Vallejo Education Association member Marnee McKenzie is a fifth-grade teacher at Steffan Manor Elementary School. PUBLIC EDUCATION is supposed to be funded by taxes, not teachers. I don't think there's any other profession where workers are expected to buy supplies out of pocket and it's considered part of their job. If you worked for a corporation, would you be expected to bring your own paper and pens? Of course not. But teachers do it. I don't think we should. It's not OK. I don't think we should be expected to buy supplies. It is not part of our job. I've done it in the past, but I haven't spent a dime of my own money this year. But we are lucky at our school to receive grant and foundation money for our students. Public schools should receive funding for basic school supplies. This includes binders, lined paper and pencils. I fully believe that anything a teacher needs in the classroom — or anything a student needs to do the work — should be pro- vided. If parents can't afford it, the schools should provide these things for students, so teachers don't have to pay out of pocket. I am a teacher, and I don't make a ton of money. I don't have an extra $250 to pay for books in my classroom, or paper, or colored pencils. I have to buy school supplies for my own children. I spent over $100 this year for school supplies just for my kids. There are times when I'm broke and have to bud- get — and I'm sure that's true for other teachers, since we are underpaid compared to other professions. I take issue with how schools are treated and how teach- ers are treated, period. It's not right. And it's gotten worse. Teachers are buying more than paper, pencils, books and binders for students these days. Now there is such a focus on testing that teachers are buying supplemental materials out of pocket to prepare their students for testing. When will it end? Ravenswood Teachers Association member Harmony Hayes is a sixth-grade teacher at the San Francisco 49ers Academy in East Palo Alto. YOUR OPINIONS ARE WELCOME. Letters to the editor must include a name and contact information and are lmited to 250 words. Send your thoughts to November 2012 7

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