Administrators prepare budgets in the summer. Departments receive amounts followed by discussions about expenses for the year. Yet, out-of-pocket costs for teachers are on the rise. A $300 allowable tax deduction for 2022 did little to offset the totals spent for additional materials. Teachers invest hard-earned money back into their classrooms by purchasing everything from basic supplies and books to storage bins and furniture.
Teachers are not strangers to the idea of stretching a budget. They even pay for the privilege of wearing jeans because the cash typically goes back to supplies for the school. Parent organizations often provide teachers with supplemental funds, but that can be as little as $25 for the entire year. The truth of the matter is that teachers are always searching for ways to fund their classrooms and school programs. An 8th-grade science teacher in Missouri, Abbie Durr, splits an annual budget between five teachers. “It usually covers the supplies for our labs and maybe a few other things if we are frugal. If I didn’t get a lot of our science chemicals through DonorsChoose, we would be struggling to be within the budget,” noted Durr.
Teachers aren’t just buying markers and glue sticks for students. Devices, edtech, lab equipment, cleaning supplies, educational games, and sanitizers are also on the list. At some point, teachers just have to say no! They have lists at home to fund as well. That’s why it’s essential to understand the processes and options involved in the quest for classroom supplies.
What administrators want teachers to know about funds
Administrators don't expect teachers to understand the ins and outs of how budgets work.
One district administrator noted that there can be a perception that there “is one big pot of money, which is not the case at all.” So how can you help your staff understand the processes involved in requesting and accessing additional funds? Here’s what a few administrators had to say… straight from the office!
Follow the process. Sara Wright, a middle school PE teacher in Springfield, MO, understands the necessary steps. “If I ask for comprehensive funds, I have to tie them to math or ELA standards or ways to increase attendance. I did this and got my request for some new PE equipment.”
Look at alignment with strategic planning goals.
Title funding fluctuates greatly. Some years principals might have an excess of money for teachers. If census poverty or free/reduced numbers drop the following year, that money might no longer be available.
As Dr. Steve Gilbreth, Principal of Joplin High School in Joplin, MO, noted, “Some departments have greater needs. Art and science departments use lots of consumables. They are given a certain amount of money in their budgets. Once they have exhausted those funds, they are done for the year. Rarely are exceptions or budget adjustments made to the original budget.”
“When it gets to my level, the principal has approved it, or they are bringing it to me because of the cost. The more it costs, the more information I will need,” said Dr. Brian Smith, Superintendent of Columbus USD 493 in Columbus, KS.
Ready to ask your administrators for funds? Here’s a checklist of points to consider.
Are there other options?
Teachers are already finding ways to supplement incomes to make ends meet. Some take on responsibilities within their schools and receive stipends. Others work side jobs in the evenings or on weekends. That is why many teachers search for additional funding sources.
One principal noted, “Two art teachers could share $175 a year for 125 kids. Sounds crazy, but it’s more typical than one might imagine.”
So what are the options? Several include DonorsChoose, Adopt a Classroom, Pets in the Classroom, Amazon Classroom Wish Lists, and grants. You can even investigate free trials with your administrators. Make sure to find out the regulations your school or district may have in place for using any outside sources for expenses. Don’t let funding concerns stop the critical work with your students. Help is out there, teachers!
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Ready to ask your administrators for funds? Here’s a checklist with points to consider:
Do the research. A curriculum or resource found online may need improvement. Some things just look shiny, making it hard to distinguish good from bad when looking for resources. If it’s not based on best practices, kids suffer.
Are there available funds for your content area? Funds are budgeted in various categories at the beginning of the year and must be used in their budgeted categories.
Find out the steps of the process. For example, teachers may need to work with the department head, the finance secretary, and the principal. Purchase orders or even several bids may be required.
Will other teachers be able to utilize the program or product?
What kind of training is necessary for implementation?
If a program is funded, who’s taking it on? Will a stipend be necessary? Will that person need more time allotted throughout the day?
Will the program be sustainable in the long term?
Before signing up for free trials, ensure budgeted funds are available to pay for products AFTER a trial period is over. You don’t want to become dependent on a product you can’t continue using.
Don’t forget the IT Department. A back end needs to be integrated with current software for many programs.