Without Money for School Supplies, Teachers Dig Into Their Own Pockets

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New York City public school teachers report back to work on Tuesday to prepare for the start of the academic year — but this year they will be without the annual stipend they received for school supplies.

The City Council avoided teacher layoffs but dropped the program known as Teacher's Choice, which for more than 25 years reimbursed teachers for items not found in their schools' cabinets up to a certain amount.

Last year, teachers received up to $110 for supplies. At the program's height, teacher's were reimbursed $220.

Now teachers will have to reach further into their pockets to provide for their classrooms.

"At the end of the day ... stipend or no stipend, you still have a classroom of kids," said Alexis Franks, a special education teacher at P.S. 368 in Bushwick, Brooklyn.

Franks said she is grateful that teachers were not laid off, but said she plans to spend her own money and ask parents for help.

Vicki Madden, a teacher at the Brooklyn School for Collaborative Studies, said the loss of Teacher's Choice is compounded by budget cuts at individual schools where principals may not be setting aside as much money for school supplies.

"It feels like we're very close to the bone," she said.

Madden predicted she will spend at least a few hundred dollars out of pocket this year, and she has already bought two cases of paper for printouts.

"I'm definitely going to radically cut back to the extent that I can, but I cannot teach classes of up to 30 adolescents without materials," she said.

The United Federation of Teachers has said it hopes to reinstate Teacher's Choice for the 2012-2013 school year.