January 17, 2006

$100 Gift Cards for Georgia Teachers

This has to take the cake.

In what is perhaps the best election year antic that I've seen lately, in his State of the State speech, Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue introduced a new program that would give each teacher in the state a $100 gift card. He describes it this way:

Teachers buy extra pencils and notebooks for their students … decorations for the bulletin board … materials for a class project … the list is just about endless. But the important point is that teachers are spending their own money to help our children learn.
That dedication deserves recognition. It also deserves a little bit of extra help from us. That’s why I’ve included $10 million in my budget to provide every Georgia teacher with one of these … the Classroom Gift Card.

The Classroom Gift Card works just like the store gift cards that many of us found in our stockings at Christmas. Each Classroom Gift Card will be worth 100 dollars that teachers can use to purchase school supplies during Georgia’s Back To School sales tax holiday this fall. It’s just one more tool we can provide our teachers to help them do their important job.

The Governor's "generosity" doesn't give me a warm and fuzzy feeling. If teachers are spending their own money on supplies, the state shouldn't encourage this by giving out gift cards, instead the state should make more pencils, paper, markers, and project supplies available. Some are calling this a bribe for votes come November, I'm inclined to call this a lack of leadership. The Governor would be doing a better service to Georgia's children if he directed that $10 million to ensuring that teachers and students have the supplies they need.

My colleagues have also mentioned a couple of other reasons why these gift cards may not be all they are cracked up to be. There is much concern in the state that this gift card policy violates Georgia's bribery laws. Afterall, who is to say that a teacher won't end up buying a single pencil for the full value of the card from his/her friend who owns a school supply store. Of course, we all like to assume that teachers wouldn't behave in this manner, but it's obviously possible that cards will be lost and who knows how those tax dollars would be spent then?

Secondly, if the gift cards function like the ones I got in my Christmas stocking (as the Governor proposed in his speech) then there is no guarantee that teachers will actually spend their gift card on school supplies. Again, no one likes to assume the worst from an educator, but this raises the important issue of accountability and this gift card system offers no room for that.

While Governor Perdue is trying to give away gift cards to teachers, he's simulataneously pushing policies that would hold local school districts hostage by asking the Legislature:

to establish a standard for local school districts to spend at least 65% of their budgets in the classroom.

This so called "65% Solution" (which is being pushed by conservative lawmakers across the country) is another gimmick. Education and child advocates are right to argue that this proposal offers no solution at all. In fact, following this arbitrary formula would mean that in some cases school departments like libraries, media centers, and guidance counseling services would be completely cut from a school's budget.

There are certainly improvements that need to be made in school districts across the country, but offering gift cards and phony solutions aren't the answer. Let's hope other lawmakers across the country don't follow Governor Perdue's lead.

What do you think?


At 10:48 PM, Anonymous squarestater said...

That is unbelievable. The recognition that they aren't going to be providing any supplies and that teachers are EXPECTED to go on their own time to get supplies and maybe the state will kick in a few extra dollars.

I hope the teachers go out and buy something nice for themselves with the cards.

At 12:40 PM, Blogger Kelly said...

Thanks, Squarestater - I share your outrage!

At 1:18 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Last year, I spent over $1,000 dollars preparing my classroom. I was a first year teacher. I for one would love to see more taxes be paid for education so teachers do not have to go purchase supplies for students in their classrooms. I find it very funny that the person who wrote this article probably has or will have children and will expect the best education for his/her child...it has been known for years that teachers spend their own money on their classroom without giving it any negative thought. I would love to see what would happen if teachers did stop spending personal money to buy students supplies, student rewards, teacher supplies, manipulatives etc...and see what people like the author of this article think of that. I am sure they will be the first people at the school office demanding to know why there is not a sufficient supply of instructional materials in his/her child's class. I commend Gov. Perdue for taking the first steps towards acknowledging all that teachers do and rewarding them by "cutting" a SMALL portion of what they already spend by giving them $100. Thank you Governor Perdue!!!

At 9:38 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree with anonymous. All teachers spend their own money on the classroom and the students. We usually get $70.00 from our school system for supplies each year. However, we have been told that since the governor is giving us the gift card we will not be getting our money from the school system. Teachers cannot win.

At 5:09 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

As a kindergarten teacher, I spend about 100 dollars per month out of my pocket for students that come to school with no lunch money, no snack, lack of supplies, etc. I agree with the person that wrote about the parents complaining. Maybe, as teachers, we should stop spending our own money and see what would happen. I know I could easily take my family on a nice vacation on the money that I spend on my classroom and my students.

At 7:13 PM, Anonymous Marti said...

First of all the person who wrote this blog needs to do their research. Our school system (as I am sure others are as well) are requiring us to show a receipt for what we buy. Also, in order for the state to provide more pencils, paper, crayons, etc. there would have to be a raise in taxes. In a perfect world-- parents would provide those supplies for their children, but it is not a perfect world, and it would probably make your skin crawl to see the children who come to school dirty and hungry--- so the chances that that child will have pencils, paper and lunch money is unlikely. I for one am glad that someone is finally doing something to help out the teachers.

At 8:48 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Amen Marti! We should be looking at this as a way to at least take a little of the burden off of us. Granted, I too spend at least 70-100 dollars a month in supplies. So I am looking at this as a gesture, not the answer. I am glad to know that Sonny cares enough to something no one else has done yet.

At 9:43 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Each year I tell myself,"I'm not going to spend so much money on class supplies". But by the end of September, I see the receipts stacking up. Unfortunately, many of my students' parents are unable to replenish supplies. What am I to do...let the students' use their sleeves to wipe their noses? (smile) Besides, I know that there is a special place in heaven for teachers! The reward will come in the afterlife!(Ha..Ha)

At 11:53 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I teach in a private school and am not eligible for the gift card. I contacted the Governor's office and was told private school teachers make a lot more money than public school teachers. We certainly do not! This is an insult to teachers. All teachers deserve the same recognition. Guess who'll get my vote this fall!

At 6:18 PM, Anonymous Just Another Teacher said...

It's just an election year ploy for a man who has cut the budget, implemented mandates without finding the funding, and has put the class size reductions on hold...of course, until election year! I think he's hoping that he'll actually end up buying something..our votes!

I, for one, am overwhelmingly unimpressed with his lack of commitment to education, and will not fall for his election year gimmick!!

I will gladly take the card, and buy things I couldn't afford to get with the money my school gave me for supplies....but he did not buy my vote!

At 10:50 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

As a public school teacher in Georgia, this is my viewpoint:

Yep, it's an election year "bribe".

I paid taxes out for it out of my taxes last -- and it's only good on the Georgia tax free days next week -- and next year -- guess what? I'll pay taxes on it again!
So -- what gift?

But here's some more of my two cents:
If you are spending 100 a month out of your pocket for kleenex and crayons, are you teaching in a Metro Atlanta school system? You should have money available to buy consumables each year in your budget. I teach at a majority minority school and I do ask for a skeletal list of supplies from the parents (1 16 count box crayons, pack yellow pencils, box kleenex, 2 sprial notebooks). Big sales are on for this stuff and the parents do seem to buy each year stuff not on the list (cutesy pencil boxes, glitter glue, etc). Not being cynical, just real. Even if I taught a more middle-class population, I believe it is wrong to ask for copious lists of stuff.
And whoever told the private school teacher they make more money than public school teachers needs a super reality check!!! The one year I spent in a fancy schmancy preschool I was given 500 dollars to buy EVERYTHING for the classroom -- and that included furntiture -- and the school had just moved into a new remodeled building (parents paid 800 dollars a week for this experience!)

Lastly -- first year teacher -- please take a reality pill and and realize that your job is not to spend a 1000 dollars out of your pocket to outfit your classroom. Did you buy paper? Pencils? Crayons? The necessitities? Then the State of Georgia and Governor Perdue have done you no favors. If you bought the "teacher goodies" (and this "old lady teacher" buys them too!!!) that's a whole different story. That's a choice. Pencils and paper are necessities. Those nice posters from the School Box...well...

At 11:45 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I know the total $ ticket for the state to provide this $100 for each teacher is on up there, however it is called a "Gift" card. Doesn't a gift come as just that, and is yours to use without a report to the giver. There are so many, many items that as teachers we use in our classroom to make learning more interesting, more fun and to motivate students! I am sure someone would find a way to question the validity of any purchase even the basics. If these folks would just take a stroll around any classroom in any school they would be surprised at the items being put to use to teach the many learning styles of all our students. Just let go and let these teachers enjoy this gift card. After all, what are the perks on your job?

At 11:48 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

In response to the comment that the state should just try to make sure the necessary supplies are provided... What happened to parents providing for their children? The more the state does the more they will expect not to have to do! Hurray for handing the teachers a small token back, but lets not continue to be an enabler when it comes to letting parents off the hook.

At 11:09 PM, Anonymous Nigel Godfrey said...

In response to your posted message, I must admit that I see your angle. However, you have not mentioned that Georgia has sold billions of dollars worth of Lottery tickets. HOW, have classroom teachers, whom spend several hundreds of dollars each year on supplies benefitted? The dollars DON'T trickle down to our classrooms. We are pleased just to have a classroom that has air-conditioning, fresh ventilation and enough desks to accomodate our overloaded classrooms. I ask that every tax payer look at the job requirements for Georgia teachers and compare the standards that are required in order for EVERY child to meet the 'No Child Left Behind' standards. THEN, perhaps, when one is educated enough, tell us, educators, who go into the classroom everday giving our hearts and souls, how to do our jobs. It seems that our profession has been smeared into a job of nothing more than baby-sitting. I challenge each and everyone of you to come into the classroom and see for yourselves what we do each and everyday. We DO make a difference.For many Americans, a yearly bonus or a yearly pay increase IS expected. As educators, that is not the case. Who is complaining that we get $100 to buy classroom materials? These children ARE our future leaders!


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