Saturday, September 21, 2002

Where's the Money?

I continue to be baffled by this. Today in the New York Times Abby Goodnough reports on the amount of money that school teachers must spend to stock their own classrooms with basic supplies.

Ms. Fiske, a second-grade teacher at Public School 195 in the Soundview section of the Bronx, has still spent about $4,000 of her own money on books and supplies for her classroom, including $400 in the last few weeks. In other words, Ms. Fiske has funneled roughly 5 percent of her total earnings from her new career back into a school system that has long scrimped on everything from writing paper to paper towels. She is among legions of public school teachers around the country who dig deep into their own pockets to pay for the ever-larger list of supplies that schools insist they cannot afford.

Even with below average per-pupil spending of say $5,000 per student (the average is closer to 8 G's) for 25 students that equals $125,000. The teacher's salary is roughly $40,000. Yet there is no money for tissues or letters for the wall. Capital costs are not paid for with per-pupil spending, textbooks are expensive, and administrative costs may be high--but still, where is this money? What happens to the per-pupil funding that is not buying textbooks or paying for the teachers' salaries?

I've seen several articles like the NYT piece. What gets me is that no one ever questions why there is no money for supplies. Doesn't it ever occur to reporters to inquire why school districts do not have enough money for Kleenex and why teachers must share one copy machine and put in requests for copies weeks in advance. The productivity crisis in education isn't just about achievement.

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