With the school year about to begin, music teacher Rachel Smith went shopping. On her list: a grade book; punch-out letters; boarders; magnets, stickers and letters for her classroom walls.
This year, she's going with a theme of owls, monkeys and little monsters. “I have to keep updated”, she said.
Smith didn't say exactly how much she spent at Carol School Supply Store in Fresh Meadows, Queens, but she considered the outlay part of the job.
“Oh gosh, a couple of hundred dollars, probably" she said. "But you know, it's a labor of love, so I buy what I need for the kids.”
New York City school teachers are reimbursed $78 for school supplies through a program called "Teacher’s Choice." The allowance used to be substantially higher, said Jason Pick, co-owner of the supply store.
“They’ve actually gone down over the years. They went up a little bit this year but not where they were,” he said.
Pick said teachers should get more money for supplies not just because he wanted to sell the “fluff’n puff”, as he referred to some of the items in his store, but because they can improve teacher instruction.
“You know, teachers put a lot of time and effort into what they do. A little more money going their way would be very beneficial – not only for them, but for what they can produce in the classroom,“ he said.
The financial pressure of back-to-school shopping weighs heavily on parents, too. Carol Pick, the store's co-owner, said parents had ever-growing lists of items they must bring to school.
“A lot of parents complain about how expensive it is to get a child ready for back to school”, she said. “They have to buy notebooks, crayons, markers, whiteboard, tissue, storage bags, paper towels, copy paper, glue.”
It’s an endless list and for some families it causes real financial strain, yet another reason why Smith said she filled her basket to the brim.