Teaching always has been a tough and sometimes thankless job. Now, with a faltering economy and deep budget cuts, the job in Florida's public schools has gotten tougher. As St. Petersburg Times writer Ron Matus recently reported, thousands of Florida teachers are begging through Internet charities for basic classroom supplies, such as books, construction and copy paper, markers, collage materials and glitter. Is this any way to run a public school system that aspires to be great?
Florida gives each teacher about $250 a year for supplies. It's not hard to see why teachers are compelled to spend their own money as well. Surveys show the average teacher needs between $500 to $1,200 for supplies and materials. The situation will get worse before it gets better. During the last legislative session, the Legislature slashed the supplies fund from $48-million to $37-million. Compounding the problem is that many school districts have frozen teacher salaries, making it even more difficult for teachers to reach into their own pockets to buy supplies.
So teachers are getting more innovative and putting their pleas for money on Web sites such as Adopt-A-Classroom at www.adopt-aclassroom.com, DonorsChoose at www.donorschoose.org, GoldStar Registry at www.goldstarregistry.com and iLoveSchools at www.iloveschools.com. They are counting on perfect strangers, some from out of state, to come to the rescue. Their creativity is admirable, but their energies should not have to be spent on fundraising.
As legislators meet in special session this week to make further cuts to public education to reduce a budget deficit, let's remember the considerable challenges teachers already are facing. Florida has a long history of doing education on the cheap, but teachers should not have to beg strangers on the Internet for supplies.