Thursday, May 16, 2013

Alms! Alms for the Teachers!

Any of you who’ve followed School Budget deliberations over the years know that one of the all time favorites for getting the taxpayers to wring their hands and open their checkbooks is to mention how “teachers had to spend their own money to buy supplies for their classrooms.”

You know, spending has been ‘cut to the bone’ so many times that there’s not a pittance left for supplies.  Generally, we hear this lament from parents who are in thrall to sainted teachers and their horrible plight.

We’ve become aware that this concept has taken root in support groups at our elementary schools.  These support groups hold various fund raising campaigns to generate money for their ‘outreach.’  Outreach in this case meaning annual cash payments to teachers to ‘reimburse’ them for supplies they purchase for their classrooms.

As we understand it, no receipts are required, and payments to the teachers are in the range of $100 each.  On top of these payments, the support groups from time to time also provide breakfast treats, such as Frostys Donuts, or hot breakfasts, for school staff.  Or maybe even a pot luck lunch.

All well and good, you might think, as is your right.  We take exception, however, with the belief that teachers “need'” to be reimbursed for classroom supplies.  Why?

Here are just a few reasons:

1)  Per student expenses have been increasing at an average of 6.3% per year for the last dozen or so years.  From less than $7,000 per student then, to more than $15,000 in the coming year.  And yet there isn’t money for pencils and paper?  Are you kidding?

2)  Over the same period, the school budget has grown from about $22 million to $35 million for the coming year.  With an increase of about $2 million for the proposed budget on the table.  Again – and there isn’t money for pencils and paper and other ‘necessary’ classroom supplies?

3)  How about asking parents to provide necessary supplies for their student children?  Wouldn’t this be a good lesson in paying for what you use or consume?

4)  While figures vary depending on step and advanced education, teachers on average get salary increases each and every year, by contract, in the range of $1500 to more than $2500.  On top of this, taxpayers pick up about 90% of the increase in the cost of their benefits.  No merit or performance measures figure into these increases.  Surely annual automatic increases like this more than compensate for $100 in supplies, if in fact that is even being spent.

Which reminds us of this disturbing fact: there is a “Share Center” in Topsham where teachers can go to pick up supplies.  The support group paid a considerable sum to this Center at the start of the school year so that teachers could pick up supplies there free of charge.  But guess what – apparently no teacher wanted to take advantage of the free supplies, paid for by the support groups that also plan to make cash payments to the teachers.

Isn’t that just peachy keen?  It’s not enough that teacher compensation, per student spending, and total budget dollars increase relentlessly over the years, or that support groups pay in advance to provide free supplies at a Share Center.

Nope, that’s not good enough.  Alms must be paid directly to the teachers for supplies they may, or may not have actually purchased.


Wow; what a great lesson in stewardship and responsible business practices.

And always remember……’it’s for the children.’

No, shut up.  Do not make us tell you again: ‘IT’S FOR THE CHILDREN.’


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