As you do your grocery shopping this week, take a stroll over to the school supply section. It is easy to the spot the teachers over there. They usually don’t have any kids with them, but their shopping carts are filled with pencils, paper, and markers up to the limit set for the sale of each item allowed by the store.
These are the same teachers that make up Idaho’s working poor and have little to no disposable income. But yet, here they are buying in bulk during the sales so that they will have the materials they need for their classrooms.
That’s not quite right. They are buying them for their students. Because they know without even looking at their roster that a few of their kiddos this year will come from families without a permanent place to call home, and those students simply are not going to bring a composition notebook to class.
They know that many of their students are on the free and reduced school lunch programs, and their families are unlikely to be able to provide every item on the school list.
But here’s what they really know: Idaho’s schools will not provide these students with these items, even though we all know students are going to show up needing them.
So, Gem State teachers head to the store each fall and will spend out of their own pockets for the supplies Idaho’s most vulnerable students need. Because they care about students they have not even met yet or even know their name.
It doesn’t have to be this way. The various districts in Idaho hodgepodge their money allocated by the state in different ways, but we could solve this problem. A line item fund dedicated to supplying every teacher in Idaho with a small amount of cash that educators can spend to equip our most vulnerable students with the supplies we know they will need.
Every teacher knows what their classroom will and won’t need for the coming year. For example, this year I am good on Kleenex. For real, my cabinet is full. But pencils! Oh my gosh what I would do to start the year with a thousand pencils in my cabinet.
Let the teachers use that money to buy what their classrooms need because there is nobody better than the educator to anticipate the supplies their specific classroom will consume during the academic year.
Idaho has about 300,000 students in public schools. Let’s make a conservative estimate that there is 1 teacher per 30 kiddos, and that means Idaho has 10,000 teachers. Give each teacher $100 in Idaho for the small price of a million.
$100, obviously, isn’t even close to what teachers shell out for their students during the year. But it’s a start. And it’s an acknowledgement that Idaho’s teachers should not be the ones shouldering the cost of school supplies for our most vulnerable students.