531. Budgeting and Ordering

Each June, teachers spend lots of time looking through catalogues, trying to imagine which items will help them and their pupils next year. They’re told how much money they’re allowed to spend, and they do their math, deciding what’s crucial, what’s important but not crucial, and what’s frivolous. Then they make sure the cost of what they order doesn’t
exceed the amount budgeted. Often, they have to proceed as if crucial items are only important ones, and important ones are frivolous; the budget only allows so much, and it’s usually necessary to make do.
Then most teachers are given a petty cash allowance. This is done in token recognition that what is ordered in June may not be enough. The petty cash allowance tends to get used up pretty quickly; teachers see things they think will help them teach, and they buy those things. And most teachers I know, if they save receipts at all and fill out the forms necessary to be reimbursed by petty cash, don’t stop when the petty cash is used up. If they see more things that would enhance their classes, they use their own money. They want to teach, and they refuse to let budget get in the way.
For example, I remember when the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics became several separate countries. The globes we had in our classrooms, which, of course, had already been inaccurate (the world keeps changing), were now way off. And we were about to start a unit on Russia! A teacher I worked with happened to notice an up-to-date globe in a store, and she bought it. She knew how slowly the school system would replace globes, and she wanted the children in her class to see what the new world looked like. Russia, instead of The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, was now the largest country in the world (in area), and Canada was now a closer second.
I know teachers who, given the same set of circumstances, would not have purchased the new globe. They believe that funding education is the responsibility of the community, and they refuse to put any band-aids on the wounds that come from insufficient funding. There are also teachers who have to decide whether their money ought to be spent on them and their families or on school. They have limited resources, and needs that have to be met. These teachers may wish they could use their own money to buy educational materials, but they don’t.
Every taxpayer faces that issue. People usually want to give less money to their governments so that they are freer to use their money the way they want to. This can range from buying necessities to giving the bell-hop at the hotel a bigger tip. But funding schools is a good investment in our future, and as for “petty cash,” when it comes to teachers, there’s nothing petty about it.

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