Teachers applaud Supplies Bill

Published 5:47 pm Friday, May 11, 2012

LIVINGSTON – Gov. Robert Bentley is not the only person expressing praise for legislature’s recent approval of Senate Bill 257. Educators across Alabama see it as a relief, even if only a small one.

Dubbed the Teacher Supply Bill, SB 257 will provide $300 for every classroom teacher in K-12 public schools in Alabama. That’s $300 for teaching materials like software and supplemental resources, but also the most basic supplies like pens, paper, and other classroom necessities. Most teachers who use supplemental materials pay for them with their personal funds.

“Senate Bill 257 will greatly enhance the instructional opportunities in the classrooms of Alabama. Teachers will have the flexibility to utilize the funds based on the needs of the students,” explained the University of West Alabama’s Dr. Jan G. Miller.

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Miller is an assistant professor of instructional leadership and support and serves as chair of the department within UWA’s Julia S. Tutwiler College of Education. Having taught and served as principal in K-12 for 22 years before coming to UWA, she knows the burden that teachers experience by having to purchase classroom materials.

“Presently, the majority of teachers spend a large portion of their personal funds on the classroom. Funds allocated for instruction will enhance the opportunity for gains in student achievement,” Miller said.

Miller and her colleagues say they are grateful for the support being offered to the educators they mentor within UWA’s educational programs. The result, they say, is much-needed assistance to classroom teachers, but even more beneficial for the children they teach.

“What a positive step for children and families, and a demonstrative act of support for teachers. We are grateful to Gov. Bentley and Legislature for addressing the great needs our teachers face daily in the classroom,” said Dr. Esther M. Howard, professor of curriculum and instruction at UWA, and the chair of her department.

Perhaps those most appreciative of the funding are the K-12 classroom teachers themselves. Carrie Dauphin is a 2006 UWA graduate with a bachelor’s degree in English. She also holds a master of arts in teaching, language arts, and teaches ninth through eleventh grade basic and advanced curriculum English at Demopolis Middle School. While the funding is less than a third of what was initially sought, Dauphin says anything helps.

“Due to budget issues, our grammar textbook is about 10 years old. I have to find extra resources online or in books. Of course, if I want those books, I would have to buy them,” Dauphin explained. “For a novel I taught this year, I purchased the materials for the novel and teaching supplies out of my own pocket. I had to buy novels because this class is much larger than last year’s. Again, there are no funds for this.”

Dauphin and colleagues in her system were provided $134.78, which became available only after the academic year had begun, to provide classroom materials. With the passing of SB 257, they’ll receive the allocated $300, but not the previous funding.

With problems like a nearly dysfunctional classroom printer that takes 30 minutes to print 15 pages, or a shortage of paper to make classroom copies for students daily, $300 will help Dauphin and other teachers across Alabama who face the same struggles to focus their time and talents on offering higher quality instruction, now with at least some of the tools necessary to do their job.

“When you think about the supplies we need to manage a classroom and offer the best resources we can to our students, it can be overwhelming. If you’re purchasing pens, pencils, staples, file folders, paper, and other basic materials, you’d be surprised how far $100 does not go,” Dauphin said. “But the bottom line is that if the state does or does not provide the money, we feel obligated to purchase what we need because we are in education to fulfill our desire to provide knowledge, not for hopes of a big paycheck or load of resources and cutting edge technology.”