Teachers paying more for kids' school supplies
As state and local governments cut education budgets and voters kill referendums, the folks running classrooms are stocking them, too.
As NBC News discovered, increased school district cutbacks across the country are forcing teachers to dip into their own pockets to buy supplies for students that are usually covered by the schools themselves. According to a recent survey conducted by insurance firm Horace Mann, which focuses on products for teachers, 53% of teachers said their budgets for classroom supplies have been cut.
General items, including paper and pens, top the list of materials not covered sufficiently by current budgets. That's followed by math and science tools, then reading material. According to the survey, 26% of the 814 teachers participating spent $400 of their own money on supplies last year -- a 3% increase from 2011.
Only about 9% of K-12 education funding comes from the federal government, which leaves school budgets in the hands of state and local agencies. In many cases, it's left to voters to determine funding through referendum items.
Last November, California voters approved Proposition 30 to increase taxes and shift more funding toward education. In June, California's legislature passed Gov. Jerry Brown's budget calling for a $38 billion increase in education spending for grades K through 12. Florida, Texas and North Dakota, however, have implemented state education cuts and are determined to keep them in place.
In North Carolina, those cuts have been particularly acute.
"We're letting our teachers know how rough the situation is," said Eric Moore, a fiscal accountant at the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction, told CNBC.com. "We've only got about 35% of our past budgets for supplies this year. After the Great Recession, decisions were made to cut supply funding instead of teaching positions, and we're still facing that lack of funding."
That's forcing an increasing numbers of teachers to go online and seek donations for items including pens, paper or computers. While groups like cut-rate supply company RAFT help that cause, charity sites including DonorsChoose.org assist teachers in paying for bigger items including field trips and science fairs.
"We've had a 30% year growth from last year in the number of requests from teachers," Charles Best, CEO of DonorsChoose.org, told CNBC.
If skinflint taxpayers don't want to pay to educate their kids or, at the very least, improve their school district and local property values, they shouldn't be surprised when their kids' schools look like the charity wards they've become.
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