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HCDE Lays Framework to Reimburse Teachers for School Suppliers


At the November 18, 2020 board meeting, the Harris County Department of Education began to lay the framework in starting a program to reimburse Harris County public school teachers for money they spend buying their student's school supplies.

With teacher's income stagnating, many searches for a second job to help make ends meet. Nevertheless, virtually all public school educators hit their wallets to pay for school supplies without reimbursement. According to a new National Center for Education Statistics report, 94% of teachers spend their own money to store their classrooms with the required supplies and services.

According to a survey, a teacher would shell out around $479 on average, while 7% spent more than $1,000. But what are they buying? Not just pencils and tape masking. The National Education Association recently asked educators to share their #OutOFMyPocket stories—how much they spend annually on classroom materials, what they buy, and why they think it's vital to dig so deep into their paychecks.

There are several stories from educators who, as they continue to stand up to politicians to demand fair pay and school funding, are doing all they can to help them get the resources they deserve. According to recent inflation-adjusted data from Economic Policy Institute, Texas, teachers reach into their wallets during the academic year to purchase school supplies to subsidize local budgets. Teachers are also first responders in high-poverty school districts to ensure students have what they need to excel in the classroom.

For example, in every class, Kassandra Peterson sees at least one of her students fall asleep at a desk because they haven't eaten a meal all day. The school's free lunches are always so low quality some would rather sit hungrily. Peterson teaches first-year students at Cesar Chavez High School, a Houston ISD school where 69% of students are eligible for free or reduced lunch. She said many of her kids come to school with concerns that wealthier district students don't have to think about—like where they'll get their first meal of the day.

That's why Peterson, who's in her second year of teaching, started buying multiple Pop-Tarts boxes every two weeks so that she at least has something to offer when a student sleeps in class. She spends about $100 a month alone on Pop-Tarts boxes. Peterson also spends her own money on paper as her school goes through supply shortages as the end-of-year approaches. As her kids get ready for final exams, she forks money for giant boxes of printer paper to make review packets for each student, along with markers and pencil cases.

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