Back to school! These three simple words used to leave America’s public school teachers giddy with anticipation. Now they leave them opening up their wallets and worrying.
The problem? Teachers have been spending out of their own pockets for generations to decorate their classrooms and the like. Now they’re having to spend their own money for basic school supplies — everything from pens and pencils to cleaning fluids — or go without.
One national study last year by Scholastic and YouGov found teachers spending an average of $530 a year on classroom supplies. The number of teachers who spend over $1,000 out-of-pocket, adds a National School Supply and Equipment Association report, has doubled over recent years.
In Oklahoma, third grade teacher Teresa Danks has been spending $2,000 annually of her own money. Earlier this summer, with her school district facing a $10-million budget cut, Danks actually started panhandling. She took to a busy street corner with a simple hand-made sign: “Teacher Needs School Supplies! Anything Helps.”
Many passers-by did help. But the fiscal squeeze on America’s local public school budgets and teacher wallets is now threatening to get even worse. The nation’s big-box retail giants — the places where many teachers go to buy school supplies — have unleashed a fierce lawsuit offensive that aims to significantly lower their local property tax bills.
If corporate retail powers like Home Depot and Target succeed in this greed grab, the state comptroller in Texas recently warned, local public schools in his state alone would lose $1.2 billion “annually within five years,” with another $703 million in school funding lost from the state level.
Some context: Home Depot profits last year jumped nearly 14 percent to $8 billion. Home Depot CEO Craig Menear took home $11.5 million.
Why do CEOs like Menear make so much? Let’s give them some credit for creativity and chutzpah. In their new property tax-avoidance offensive, an Education Week…