OKWatch Radio: Teachers Speak About Dropping Hundreds on Supplies

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Weeks into the school year, Oklahoma teachers may already be wondering if their August buying spree on behalf of their students was big enough.

Every year, many teachers spend several hundred dollars buying classroom supplies, from pencils to wall decorations to learning apps. The pressure to do so is heightened this year because of cutbacks in state education spending and fears of future cuts, which have caused school districts to rein in expenses.

That includes allotments for teachers to purchase supplies.

In low-income districts especially, parents and PTAs can’t or won’t cover all the costs. And for teachers, who haven’t had an across-the-board pay raise in eight years, buying supplies with cash their own family could use is a bittersweet experience.

There is joy in doing what they feel will advance their students’ learning, educators say. But there’s also a kind of slow burn over having to spend out of pocket on work items that many private employers would purchase without question.

“Why aren’t we taking care of our teachers, so they don’t have to sacrifice?” said John Cox, president of the Organization of Rural Elementary Schools and superintendent of Peggs Public School in eastern Oklahoma.