how-to-stop-spending-so-much-money-on-classroom-supplies

I should preface this blog post by saying not ALL teachers hate Class Wallet. Miami Dade County’s implementation of the Class Wallet platform, however, will pretty much ensure that all Miami Dade County teachers hate Class Wallet by next fall. In case teachers missed the weekly briefing in your district email, (I’m guessing that would be about 90% of teachers), they may not be aware that ALL teacher supply purchases using state funds from the classroom supply assistance program next year must be made ONLY through the vendors listed on the Class Wallet platform. Consider forwarding this post to your clueless coworkers who may go out over the summer and spend $280 on classroom supplies thinking they will be reimbursed in September. They won’t!

So why is it a problem to force Miami Dade teachers to only use Class Wallet vendors? The main issues are threefold:

  1. Class Wallet vendors products are much more expensive than teachers could purchase at other places and allows private businesses to profit off of the little money we are given for supplies at the taxpayers’ and teachers’ expense.
  2. Class Wallet offers extremely limited items for purchase. If you want anything besides basic office supplies which most teachers already have available to them, you’ll be hard pressed to find $280 worth of products you want. Meanwhile, you will have to use your own money to purchase what you actually need for your classroom.
  3. Teachers will not be able to purchase any supplies until after the start of the school year! HUGE problem! Traditionally, teachers have not been reimbursed for their purchases until September 20th because the county wants new hires to have access to the supply funds. This would not be a problem IF we could still upload receipts and do our back to school shopping in August in order to get our classrooms ready. But without the ability to do any supply shopping until September, everything you need for the first month of school is going to come out of your own wallet.

Let me provide an illustrative example of the Class Wallet conundrum as implemented in Miami Dade County. Keep in mind that Miami Dade County is the only county in Florida forcing their teachers to only use Class Wallet vendors. Even other counties that use the Class Wallet platform continue to allow their teachers to upload receipts for reimbursements.

I do not use a lot of paper products or office supplies in my classroom. I have spent great time and effort to put my materials and assessments online.  This saves my school and district a lot of money on copies and scantrons. The only paper product I purchase using my teacher classroom assistance funds, are large poster size sticky notes for student presentations. If you’ve never purchased these large sticky note pads and have only seen them used in school site or district PDs you would think the stuff was so cheap it grew on trees. If you have purchased those large sticky note pads for your classroom, however, you realize those things are so expensive they must be made from gold trees! Because of the cost, I limit my lessons involving the large sticky notes to once a year. At the very beginning of the year! This year, because I won’t be able to purchase the sticky note pads until September, I just won’t do the lesson. Note to self: do your back to school shopping one year in advance so you will have the supplies you need the following August!

The thrifty teacher shopper in me will comparison shop in order to stretch my teacher supply money for maximum purchasing power. Most office supplies are available much cheaper on Amazon than Office Depot. I can purchase a four pack of the 25 x 30 post it pads on Amazon for under $80.

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On the regular Office Depot site, a four pack of the 25 x 30 Post-it pads will cost me almost $120! I may as well take $40 out of my own pocket and flush it down the toilet right now! Make a video of it and say “Your Florida tax dollars at work.”

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Keep in mind that the Class Wallet Office Depot site usually will add another 20-30% mark up from the regular Office Depot site. That is, if Office Depot is even a listed vendor anymore. This morning, when I went to do a little comparison shopping on Class Wallet, Office Depot was no longer even listed as a vendor even though it was there earlier in the week. This may have to do with my comments on social media about taking screen shots of the marked up prices on Class Wallet and tweeting them to School Board members.

I’m not a huge fan of Twitter, and I think most people’s pets have more followers on Twitter than myself, but I will use it every now and then. This week I used it in the Superintendent’s Twitter Town Hall and to my surprise I hadn’t been blocked (yet) and he even responded to my Tweet!  Thanks for your response Supe!

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It’s worth noting that the only person to like this Tweet was the marketing director of Class Wallet. This photo posted by a disgruntled teacher who’s $110 worth of Class Wallet copy paper delivered in shambles doesn’t really look like “facilitation of delivery” to me.

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This response makes it seem like the district really does not trust its teachers to actually spend their $280 on classroom supplies. They think we’re out their buying all sorts of bling with our $280 teacher supply assistance funds! I guess this response might make sense (can’t trust those corrupt and greedy Dade County teachers to purchase supplies for their classrooms) except that Best Buy is listed as a Class Wallet vendor. What exactly are we supposed to purchase at Best Buy that would not be classified as technology or “equipment”?

Speaking of which, it should be noted that there is nothing in the state statute that specifies that we can only buy consumables and are not allowed to purchase food. It only states we can’t buy equipment. You can read the state statute here

The classroom supply assistance funds are not subject to collective bargaining, so other than bringing teacher complaints to the district’s attention, I’m not sure there is much more UTD can do about this. Special shout out to UTD’s Mindy Grimes-Festge who took the time to tweet to the Supe about the district’s Class Wallet policy.

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I realize that $280 worth of classroom supply assistance funds is a rather small issue in the grand scheme of things, but it’s just disgusting to think that private businesses and the district are profiting off of funds coming straight out of teachers’ wallets. Any unused funds will be returned to the district, which really adds up when you have 20,000 teachers! In a year when we are hearing that no funds are available for teacher raises, to further debilitate our income by unnecessarily restricting when and where we spend our classroom assistance funds is demoralizing. Until we can upload receipts on Class Wallet or Amazon is listed as a vendor, I will see this as a $280 pay cut.

So what can teachers do? I’ll tell you what you shouldn’t do. DO NOT GO OUT AND SPEND YOUR OWN MONEY GETTING YOUR ROOMS READY FOR THE FIRST DAY OF SCHOOL! Let administration get angry enough over your sad looking walls to complain to the district. Let parents see your cold empty classrooms and long supply list on Back to School night and explain why your rooms look that way. Don’t be like these big hearted well meaning teachers who undermine their own cause and financial well being by spending thousands of dollars of their own money every year on their classrooms. Demand the system fully fund you and your classroom!

 

If they really don’t trust teachers to spend at least $280 on their own classrooms every year, just get rid of the program and put the money towards teacher salaries instead. I’d rather have the freedom to spend my own money where I want, on whatever I want, and whenever I want than to have the funds micromanaged to the point of uselessness.

 

If you are so irate about the district’s restriction of teacher supply funds, consider signing up to speak at the May 16th School Board meeting. You have until Monday afternoon to fax in the form. Hopefully, you will be in good company! Since this blog post is mostly geared towards Dade County teachers, I’m going to make one final plug to attend the rally for salaries at next week’s School Board meeting.

Red for ED flyer

So far Florida teacher protests have been MIA, let the 305 lead the way!