Local teachers spending hundreds on classroom supplies

Posted at 3:28 PM, Aug 03, 2016
and last updated 2016-08-03 17:27:41-04
As you get ready to send your kids back to school, spending your own hard-earned cash on backpacks and clothes, your child's teacher is also likely spending hundreds of their own dollars on classroom supplies.
Tampa Bay area teachers say they are often responsible for funding much of their own classroom supplies.
"I'll just put some stickers," said Jessica White, a third-grade teacher at Rampello K-8, filling a goody bag for students for the upcoming school year. "I have a band-aid, a little straw and some sticky notes."
As a literacy teacher, White said she has to have supplies in her classroom that keep the kids engaged.
"This really excites them so they're more likely to learn, pay attention and be excited at school," she said.
Unfortunately, that can cost her about $300 to $500 a year of her own money. This comes as she pays her college loans and supports her own family.
"I have a baby at home," White said. "So I'm spending my money to take care of these kids, and I'm not spending the money on my own baby."
Leaders at the Hillsborough Classroom Teachers Association say new teachers tend to struggle the most because they do not have a previous store of supplies to start with.
"They won't get paid until after school starts but they have to come in with a classroom set up," said Stephanie Baxter-Jenkins, executive director of the Hillsborough Classroom Teachers Association.
Baxter-Jenkins said teachers do get some money from Hillsborough County Schools for supplies. There is also the Florida Teacher Supply Fund, which typically gives teachers around $250. However, that money from the state doesn't kick in until about mid-year, after teachers have already had to set up their own classrooms.
"It comes at a time when teachers have already had to spend the money," Baxter-Jenkins said.
James Stewart, a chemistry teacher at King High School in Hillsborough County said many teachers desperately need very basic supplies and that the state is not properly funding education.
"We do not get nearly enough from the state to give every student what they need," he said.
This is even for hygiene products like soap, sanitizer and more.
"Even things like tissues can be in short supply sometimes," Stewart said.
The Hillsborough Classroom Teachers Association said they plan to continue pushing state lawmakers in the upcoming session for more general funding for education as well as specific mandates that the state has put forward in terms of technology and testing.
"School districts end up having to divert funds when we don't pay for the computers that are mandated for state testing," Baxter-Jenkins said. "All of those things are just part of properly supporting public education in this state." 
But for now, teachers continue to rely much in part on themselves and parents of students to pay for many of their classroom supplies.