Bill Would Give Iowa Teachers $200 a Year for Classroom Supplies

(Radio Iowa) A bill that’s cleared a Senate subcommittee would require Iowa schools to create expense accounts to help teachers pay for classroom supplies. Senator Kerry Gruenhagen, a Republican from Walcott, is the bill’s sponsor.

“Currently they’re using their own funds and this is an attempt to set up a funding stream to assist them with that endeavor as opposed to a lot of them going onto Facebook or setting other fundraising efforts to supply their classroom.” Under the bill, new teachers would get 500 dollars their first year and all other teachers would get 200 dollars a year. The program would cost eight million dollars statewide for the next academic year and schools would have to shift money from their general budget to cover the expense accounts. Melissa Peterson, a lobbyist for the Iowa State Education Association, says the teachers’ union isn’t registered in opposition to the bill, but is concerned there’s no new state funding for the program.

“We do appreciate that this bill acknowledges teachers need more resources in their classrooms,” Peterson says, “because we don’t have enough resources.” Margaret Buckton, a lobbyist for Rural School Advocates of Iowa and the Urban Educators Network, says not all classroom needs are equal.

“And we just don’t want to invade on local control and how this might be determined at the local level,” Buckton says. Senator Lynn Evans, a Republican from Aurelia who’s a retired superintendent, agreed to advance the bill, but he says it needs work.

“Schools are going to budget differently based on their school’s needs, their students’ needs and their school board expectations. This tends to mandate how they’re going to develop their budget,” Evans says. “I don’t disagree that teachers need more financial support in the classroom. I would like to have some further discussion on this bill, on how it would be funded and what the long range, maybe, impact of it would be.” And Senator Sarah Trone-Garriot, a Democrat from West Des Moines, notes the bill calls for any money teachers don’t spend on classroom supplies to be redirected to raises for all teachers in the district.

“Teachers need to be paid more,” Trone-Garriott says. “We’re not going to accomplish that by just moving the same money around.” According to a national non-profit that helps raise money for classroom supplies, teachers spent an average of 860 dollars of their own money on supplies for this current school year.