The Miami-Dade school district and the state of Florida are apparently under the false impression that teachers have a massive amount of spare time on their hands. Instead of spending my planning period grading papers, I will be filling out a tedious form itemizing each 50 cent pack of crayons I purchased in August so the district doesn’t deduct money from my paycheck next March because I didn’t properly document how I spent each penny of the $285 teacher lead money on classroom supplies. To make matters worse, this is the second time I am filling out this form because the first time I printed it out and hand wrote the items and only now am I finding out the form needs to be filled out online and then printed and submitted with receipts to my site administrator. Luckily, I seem to be one of the only teachers left in Dade County with a functioning printer and toner that my school actually purchased for me. Other Dade County teachers are not so lucky. See this unbelievable email exchange between a teacher just trying to do her job and a district bureaucrat:
It is imperative that your office send teachers a specified list of what constitutes EQUIPMENT. For example, I purchased a small laminator machine from Office Depot to laminate posters for my classroom. I also purchased an HP printer for my classroom this year after I was unable to receive a working printer in my class. I requested an HP printer via several HEAT tickets and administration because the Lexmark printer was not working and it needed a toner cartridge. Finally, after two weeks I was told there were no available HP printers in the building by the administration and the HEAT tech person at my school site. Additionally, I tried several times in past years to order ink cartridges for the school printers in my classroom via HEAT tickets and administration email. I was told several years ago that the school did not have money for ink for printers in the individual teachers classrooms and that I would have to use my Lead Teacher Classroom Supply money for that purpose. Therefore I have been purchasing ink for the school printer in my classroom each year. Also, I needed copies for my classes, along with many teachers in building, for our opening of school course syllabus and our school site copy machine has not been working since teacher OPT Days. So I have been going to Office Depot in the interim to have my copies made for my students.
As you can see, Equipment is a vague term because I do not know what items that refers to especially with what I have already purchased above-ink cartridges, small laminator machine, HP printer… this year and in previous years. Teachers need a list of what constitutes equipment from your office ASAP so they will know what not to enter on the Teacher Classroom Supply Documentation of Expenditures form.
The is the district’s response:
“Please recall your message, you just copied almost the entire District in your response. The District does not have a list, if we did we would have shared it with our teachers. Just yesterday, we were able to get from the State of Florida the definition of “equipment and supplies”, and thus, it was just provided to the Regions to share with the Principals. Your administration just got it, I’m sure that they will share it with staff shortly. Based on the definition, printers and laminators are considered equipment.”
It gets even more absurd ladies and gentleman. Read the state of Florida’s definition of “equipment and supplies” that was sent to administrators and forwarded to teachers. It reads more like a science textbook than anything that would actually help a teacher categorize what constitutes a supply and what constitutes equipment.
SUPPLIES AND EQUIPMENT CRITERIA
An ever-present challenge in financial accounting is that of distinguishing between supplies and equipment.This section provides criteria for classifying an item as either a supply or piece of equipment. Equipment builtin or fixed to the building or grounds is considered a part of the building or land improvement and shouldbe charged to those respective accounts.
CRITERIA FOR SUPPLY ITEMS
A supply item is any article or material that meets any one or more of the following conditions:
- It is consumed in use.
- It loses its original shape or appearance with use.
- It is expendable. That is, if the article is damaged or some of its parts are lost or worn out, it is usually more feasible to replace it with an entirely new unit than repair it.
- It is an inexpensive item, having characteristics of equipment but with a small unit cost that makes it inadvisable to capitalize the item.
- It loses its identity through incorporation into a different or more complex unit or substance.
CRITERIA FOR EQUIPMENT ITEMS
An equipment item is a material unit that meets all of the following conditions:
- It retains its original shape and appearance with use.
- It is nonexpendable. That is, it is usually more feasible to repair it rather than replace it with an entirely new unit.
- It represents an investment of money that makes it feasible and advisable to capitalize the item.
- It does not lose its identity through incorporation into a different or more complex unit or substance.
All clear now? Probably not. You are probably more confused than ever about what constitutes a “supply” and what constitutes “equipment” and you may be questioning your own sanity at this point. I’m definitely questioning my own sanity for staying in a profession that treats me like a criminal for purchasing a set of wireless mice for the district tablets that only come with one USB port so you can’t work with a mouse and a keyboard at the same time. Charter schools are robbing this state blind, yet every year they come up with even more ridiculous hurdles for teachers to be able to be semi-reimbursed for all of the money they spend on items just to be able to do their job.
It’s unbelievable what teachers are being forced to purchase out of their own pockets these days. Last week at my daughter’s second grade Back to School Night, her teacher asked parents to donate money on Adopt a Classroom so she could purchase cardboard cubicles to prevent the kids from cheating during tests! WTF? Not only are teachers being treated like criminals, but so are second grade students! First of all, the district should be providing the cubicles to prevent cheating on these exams that they want to base teacher evaluations and pay on-not the teacher! Second of all, why are we putting 7 year olds in cardboard cubicles to take a high stakes test in the first place? Sorry teach, but I’m not giving you money to put my kid in a cardboard cubicle.
Once upon a time in a not so distant past, teachers were simply handed a check in September because the district knew that teachers spent a large sum of their own funds back in August to buy supplies, or equipment, or candy, or whatever they damn well needed to buy to do their job and no questions were ever asked. Then last year we were handed a debit card so they could track our expenses and told where we could spend the money. Only problem was that the debit card company was hacked on our personal information may have been compromised. Which leads us to where we are today, itemizing each 50 cent pack of crayons and being told we will not be reimbursed for hundreds of dollars worth of “equipment” because “it does not lose its identity through incorporation into a different or my complex substance.” At this point I’ve lost my identity as a classroom teacher and may as well be working for the IRS.
Many teachers will probably just throw their hands up at this point and not even bother filling out the form out of frustration, total confusion, or because they just don’t have the time for all that. And the great irony in all of this (of which there are many), if you don’t spend your $285 according to those incomprehensible instructions, the district get’s to keep the unused funds! Not only do they save money not purchasing basic supplies and equipment like paper, toner and printers, they get to make money off of the backs of the teachers who did!
On the subject of the criminalization of teachers and wasting teachers’ time, if you haven’t already attended a district PD recently and had to complete an evaluation using “My Learning Plan” you are in for yet another massive time suck. If it weren’t bad enough that there are now PD Gestapo that will turn you away if you show up 15 minutes late and force you to stay until 3:45 even if you finished all of your work two hours earlier, you now have to fill in a multi-stage evaluation. We had a perfectly good PD registration and evaluation system, but apparently the state of Florida audited us and found it just wasn’t good enough. (Funny how the state of Florida is happy to audit district professional development but has never audited districts over compliance with the class size amendment).
Just figuring out where to submit an evaluation on My Learning Plan is burdensome enough, but then you have about a thousand drop down menus worth of “Strongly Agreeing” about the value of your PD, uploading documentation, creating a Smart Goal (100% of will achieve mastery on blah, blah, blah..) and then you are supposed to remember to go back 14 days after your PD and describe how you achieved your goal. I took a PD at the beginning of the summer, and I was still expected to go back 14 days later while on vacation and describe how I achieved my goal even though I wouldn’t see any students for another two months! Basically, I was forced into a situation where I had to lie and this was all being done in the name of preventing PD fraud! I got news for you Tallahassee, ain’t no teacher got time for that!