There’s a recent article in the Bismarck Tribune on the subject of teachers spending their own money on classroom supplies. The Tribune’s Blair Emerson writes:
“Public school teachers nationwide are spending hundreds and sometimes thousands of dollars of their own money on classroom supplies. A bill that failed at the North Dakota Legislature this past session would have reimbursed teachers for some of their expenses.”
The bill Emerson refers to is Rep. Matt Ruby’s (R – District 40) House Bill 1208. Had Ruby’s idea become law, it would have authorized the State Superintendent of Public Instruction to administer a program in which teachers could have been reimbursed up to $200 in a school year “for out-of-pocket expenses incurred by the teacher for school supplies and other necessary items not otherwise provided by the school district.”
The demise of Rep. Ruby’s bill was quick, and the vote wasn’t even close. It went down in flames 20-72— an outcome that was completely appropriate.
Far too often it seems that some folks interpret opposition to a bill like this in such a way that you’d think we hate teachers, children, and puppies. It’s really quite ridiculous, because that’s simply not the case at all. My position is this— I don’t believe teachers should have to spend their own money on supplies.
Each year the North Dakota Department of Public Instruction produces a document that shows each district’s revenue and expenditures. You can see the most recent one by clicking here and going to page 19 of 72. As you can tell — generally speaking — money is not an issue for our schools. Each district shows a surplus ranging from tens of thousands to millions of dollars.
Take Bismarck’s schools for example. They came in with an Ending Fund Balance on June 30, 2018 of over $18.7 million. I chose Bismarck as the example, because the Tribune’s article features a Bismarck teacher — Heather Hintz — who is spending her own money to buy supplies for the upcoming 2019-2020 school year.
Why should Ms. Hintz be spending her own money on school supplies, for her students, when the district she teaches for has so much in the bank? In short— she shouldn’t.
Regardless of what some folks will tell you, there’s money to spare when it comes to K-12 education. We don’t need to be proposing and passing legislation to spend even more.
It’s true— there are many excellent and caring teachers across North Dakota. There’s no doubt about it. For them, it’s about the kids. They want to see their students succeed and some will even open their own wallets on things they believe will aid in the process. I think it’s an admirable thing, and we should be grateful such teachers exist. But this issue needs to be resolved at the district level. The money is there. Teachers, parents, school boards, and administration need to be working together to utilize the resources they already have.
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