Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Budget cuts have classroom consequences

August is just around the corner, which means two things: classroom educators are down to counting the days and hours, and parents are down to counting their nickels and pennies. In other states, classrooms will be stocked with school supplies when teachers and student return; not here in South Carolina.

Here, among the smiling faces and beautiful places, teachers and children are on their own, already foraging for the least costly school supplies they can find, and asking for help where they can get it.

FLORENCE- Teachers across the state are feeling the impacts of budget cuts, most notably those that directly impact their ability to outfit their classrooms with necessary materials and supplies. Those effects are being felt on teachers in the Pee Dee as well, looking into their own pockets to help supply the essentials needed to start off the school year.

In addition, those teachers and school districts are reaching out to parents to help pick up the slack where the state budget has left off.

For many years, the state alloted $275 per teacher to spend on materials over an annual basis. Recently though, budget cuts have forced many districts to either use a portion or the entire amount of that funding to instead save positions that were at risk or cut down on teacher furloughs.
Because of the losses in funding, some districts have added "wish lists" to the bottom of school supply lists with items such as hand sanitizer, kleenex and dry erase markers, that can benefit both the teacher and the entire class as well.

"We ask parents to try to send some of those things with their kids the first day because we don't get as much money as we used to get, the funding has been cut," said third and fourth grade teacher, Lakisha Timmons.
In an effort to help teachers through the tough times, Teacher's Tools of Florence held a raffle event Friday, handing out free supplies to winning teachers in elementary, middle and high schools. Store owners said they felt it was especially important to give back to teachers during a time when the budget crunch is being felt on every level across the state.

Budget crunch. We can afford to give millions of dollars in tax breaks to large corporations, but we can't afford to give teachers $275 each to supply their classrooms anymore. When there's a budget crunch, it's funny how it's always working people and their children -- and the unemployed -- getting crunched. We never hear of big businesses getting crunched by state government budget cuts.

With less than a month until the start of school in Greenwood and Abbeville counties, the local United Way wants to bring school supplies to those needing them the most.

The newly created "Stuff the Bus" campaign is seeking school supplies like notebooks, pencils, loose-leaf paper, scissors, crayons and markers, as well as classroom supplies like tissue paper towers and hand sanitizer.

Donations will be retained in the communities giving them - the United Christian Ministries of Abbeville County and the Abbeville School District will distribute the Abbeville donations, and Greenwood District 50 will determine where in its schools the items should go.

"We would rather do it through people like guidance counselors who see the need," Denise Manley, local United Way president, said.

The drop-off sites will enlist the help of students, such as cheerleaders from Brewer Middle School on hand for the Walmart site Aug. 5 and Emerald High School cheerleaders there the next day.

Other groups will join in as well, including the Greenwood Area Chamber of Commerce's Connect Young Professionals for Live After Five on Aug. 11, and such groups as the Abbeville Area Medical Center and Elliott Davis.

The United Way has also been promoting the similar school supply drive in Ninety Six led by Fred Geier and Cathy Smith.

As much support as Wal-Mart gets from Governor Nikki Haley and the legislature, perhaps Wal-Mart could donate the equivalent of $275 in school supplies to each classroom in the state, as a thank-you for the state's protection from competition. With Wal-Mart's profit margin, it likely wouldn't feel the loss of revenue at all, and it would get another huge tax write-off.

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