When a doctor needs medical supplies, they are readily available. When a firefighter needs a hose and water, they have easy access. But when a public-school teacher needs paper to print an assignment, books for students to read or even tissues, she likely has to pay out of her own pocket.
At least, I know that I do.
As I started to look forward to beginning my fifth year as a teacher and meeting the new students who would fill my seventh- and eighth-grade classroom, I was also preparing for the year ahead — which included purchasing supplies to ensure my students are equipped with everything they need to succeed this year. Many of these expenses have or will come out of my own pocket, without option for reimbursement, and it adds up quickly for a teacher on an already low salary.
The $200 that I am allocated for classroom supplies for the school year simply doesn’t cover what’s needed to decorate classrooms, update reading materials and stock supplies for 70-80 students. While some of the items I purchase are for my personal use in the classroom, others are in recognition that not all of my students are well-equipped to engage with daily lessons — this supply list ranges from notebooks and writing utensils to granola bars and goldfish.
As I begin to cross items off that list, I’d like to acknowledge a small but important step that the Illinois legislature has recently made to help teachers. By offering a $250 teacher tax credit for expenses paid out of pocket, legislators have recognized the investments that teachers are making in our students and have chosen to support us through their legislation.
I am incredibly grateful for this tax credit and appreciate the organizations like Empower Illinois and the lawmakers who championed this policy — but $250 is simply not enough.
In my experience, I have spent upward of $1,500 each year purchasing supplies for my classroom, and that number can be much higher for those teaching younger grades. Many teachers, myself included, turn to fundraising websites like GoFundMe and Donors Choose to get the money they need for different projects. Whether it’s new books for a reading assignment or planners to keep students organized, teachers go to great lengths to make sure we are able to provide students with the best educational experience. With tight school budgets and low salaries, it can be extremely difficult for teachers to cover the cost of basic classroom needs.
We need to take this a step further and make sure classrooms are adequately stocked and teachers are sufficiently paid. Our children deserve better.
Rachel Hersch is a seventh- and eighth-grade teacher at the Johnson School of Excellence in Chicago’s North Lawndale neighborhood.
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Region: Springfield,Feeds,Opinion,Region: Central,City: Springfield
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September 11, 2018 at 08:05PM