A new initiative was just announced today from Mark Johnson and Senator Andy Wells, a Republican from Catawba County. The announcement essentially gives flexible state supply money directly to teachers instead of to districts. Each teacher will receive about $400 each to spend on classroom supplies according to the press conference.

The most startling aspect is that no new money is coming from the state. We are just redistributing money. Senator Wells was quoted as saying “All too often local bureaucrats decided not to spend the money on school supplies” Districts once again are being painted as the bad guys who aren’t using state money properly. I’ve heard this song and dance before. It seems to be the sounding cry before bad policy is introduced.

Districts use state and county buying contracts to purchase the big and basic supplies. These are things like paper, toner, and even toilet paper. Purchasers are trained and it is drilled into their heads that, “You are stewards of the state’s money.” With districts doing less of the buying I see a potential for money loss. Individual buying costs more. Any shopper at Costco knows the power of buying in bulk.

Yesterday the Wake County School Board Superintendent released the budget. As it was presented we learned that half the budget request was due to state obligations and loss of budget flexibility. Loss of budget flexibility costs our districts money, and ultimately the tax payers. This new initiative takes more money from our strapped districts and confines it to a very specific purpose. Budgets need to be as flexible as possible. Districts never know when they might face an unexpected expense like rising utility costs or broken down buses. Loss of flexibility makes budgets for districts that much tighter and expect to feel it in your property taxes.

Teachers absolutely need flexible supply money provided by the state. It should be new appropriations. They shouldn’t have to worry if their district can supply the copy paper. They also have to use an app to purchase. The app itself seems fraught with issues including limited vendors, and limiting when supplies can be purchased. A blog from Florida seems to sum up the issues : Why Teachers Hate Class Wallet

Being a steward of the state’s money isn’t easy. I don’t think an app is the answer. Districts don’t move around supply money just for fun. They move money from one pot or another based on need. It is also tracked and documented with many steps of approval along the way. We may not always agree on how our districts spend their money, we might feel teachers need more supply funds, but this app is just bad policy.

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