Bill creates classroom supply accounts for Iowa teachers

DES MOINES — A bill that’s cleared a Senate subcommittee would require Iowa schools to create expense accounts to help teachers pay for classroom supplies.

“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,” said Senator Kerry Gruenhagen, a Repblican from Walcott who is the bill’s sponsor.

Under the bill, new teachers would get $500 their first year and all other teachers would get $200 a year. The program would cost $8 million 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, said 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 said, “because we don’t have enough resources.”

Margaret Buckton, a lobbyist for Rural School Advocates of Iowa and the Urban Educators Network, said 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.”

Senator Lynn Evans, a Republican from Aurelia who’s a retired superintendent, agreed to advance the bill out of a Senate subcommittee, 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 said. “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.”

Senator Sarah Trone-Garriot, a Democrat from West Des Moines, noted that the bill calls for any money that 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 said. “We’re not going to accomplish that by just moving the same money around.”

According to a national non-profit that helps teachers raise money for supplies, teachers spent an average of $860 on supplies for their classroom for this current school year.