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Education news and notes from Tampa Bay and Florida

Pinellas says no to Scott's teacher debit cards



This spring, Gov. Rick Scott announced an initiative to help teachers pay for classroom supplies: $250 debit cards.

Some districts signed up. Many did not. Today, Pinellas offered an explanation for why it didn't choose to participate in the program.

"The debit cards actually were part of the Florida Teachers Lead Program, which has been included in Florida statute and has been in effect statewide for more than 10 years," per a Pinellas County Schools blog post.

The program's name was changed to "Florida Teachers Classroom Supply Assistance Program" this year.

But Pinellas has preferred to deposit back-to-school cash directly into teachers' accounts, and will continue to do so. One advantage, staff said, was the ability to get money in the teachers' hands sooner. They'll get funds in their first or second paycheck in September, instead of waiting for the debit cards to be distributed (likely around Sept. 30).

The district's CFO, Kevin Smith, also says that Pinellas's method allows teachers to be reimbursed for money they've already spent, such as during the recent tax-free shopping days.

As far as the actual amount of money, Pinellas estimates $230 to $240 per teacher, slightly less than what Scott is pushing but much more than last year's $170.

Update: Jackie Schutz, a Scott spokeswoman, said the governor would try to make the debit cards available sooner next year. "The reason why it took time was we had to do a competitive bidding process for the first year," Schutz said.

She also stressed that purchases made with the card were tax-free "all year long."

[Last modified: Wednesday, August 14, 2013 1:10pm]


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