Teachers in Florida could soon save money on classroom supplies

“Students are eager to be called on in teacher Joseph Biggs’ kindergarten class at R.J. Longstreet Elementary School in Daytona Beach, March 18, 2021.”
Photo courtesy of David Tucker at the Daytona Beach News Journal.

Educators may be able to save a buck or two in the near future. Senate Bill 1376, filed by Florida state Sen. Ana Maria Rodriguez (R-Doral), would provide an assistance program that would allow Florida teachers to be reimbursed for money spent on classroom supplies.

Taylor Brown, a teacher at Deerfield Beach Middle School, says she spends roughly $500-$800 a term to stock her classroom with necessary supplies.

Brown says her school “only provides the bare minimum upon request,” and even then, that only includes “paper, pencils and masks, everything else feels like pulling teeth.”

According to the bill’s text, the funds for each public or charter school in the district would be calculated by the commissioner of education based upon each school district’s proportionate share of the state’s total unweighted FTE student enrollment and would be disbursed by July 15 under the condition that each teacher uses the funds for classroom materials, supplies and equipment for only their assigned students. Teachers would be required to keep receipts for all purchases for no less than four years and return all unexpended funds back to the district school board.

Doney Eden, a teacher at Godby High School, says that this assistance program would be especially beneficial to him and his fellow educators that work at Title 1 schools.

“Title 1 schools lack a lot of resources, and we don’t want our students to feel left out,” Eden said. “We just want our students to feel comfortable with learning inside of our classrooms with whatever materials we see best fit.”

Eden says they do receive a stipend at the beginning of the school year. However, the $150 they receive barely covers classroom essentials such as masks, hand sanitizer, pencils and paper throughout the school year.

“Teachers barely make enough to take care of themselves and their family,” Brown said. “So, it’s definitely a struggle trying to purchase more materials for your classroom to ensure students’ academic success.”

Although Eden hopes the bill passes, he says he doesn’t mind paying for materials out of pocket. But, he added, he wouldn’t mind the extra help.

A similar bill, HB 919, was filed by Travaris McCurdy (D-Orlando) on Dec. 15, two weeks before SB 1376 and had its first reading in the House on Jan. 11.

SB 1376 was introduced in the Senate on Jan. 18.

Taylor Brown in her classroom at Deerfield Beach Middle School.
Photo courtesy of Taylor Brown.