Back To School Proposal: Prohibiting Purchase Of School Supplies By Teachers

The Ideal Gift For Teachers

Back in the days when I was a single parent with two kids in school, I set myself the goal of upping the  Showalter family game in teachers’ gifts beyond my mother’s go-to offering of Avon products. After careful consideration, I came to realize that (1) the best gift is something the recipient needs and (2) what teachers need most is protection – from themselves.

Economically Self-Destructive Trait Endemic To Teachers


UpdateBack To School Lesson: 94% of public school teachers paid an average of $479 for classroom supplies without reimbursement (2014-15)

My informal, non-scientific, indisputably accurate observation is that teachers are vulnerable to an especially insidious addiction: purchasing educational materials for use by their students.

Worse, the teachers most likely to succumb to this depravity are those who care for the youngest of America’s school children, those least able to defend themselves against these gifts.

While this may not the greatest crisis faced by teachers, I think it is a particularly vexing problem and one that is emblematic of many other difficulties faced by that profession. (For example, when did Sunday become part of the teaching workweek? On the Sunday before I originally wrote this post, I received a call from a Department Director at my son’s school who was contacting a list of parents because she was concerned that she might be too busy during the ensuing week to call. The Lord’s Day is so frequently a workday for the iridescent Lawanda and her teaching team that they have developed a routine for organizing shared meals at school on those Sundays, and Mindspinner writes about teachers showing up at school on Sundays as commonplace.)

And, it’s an issue that happens to annoy me.

Using The Full Force Of The Law To Protect Teachers
– From Themselves

Consequently, as my token of my appreciation for teachers, I am initiating a campaign to promote laws prohibiting teachers from purchasing any goods or services for their students or their schools.

Is there another group of professionals who routinely spend their own bucks to buy all their clients non-reimbursable supplies? (I’m going to go out on a limb to assume that these purchases are not part of a complex marketing ploy gone tragically askew; e.g., a teacher gives away a few books this year in hopes of increasing her class size next year.) Sure, the family doc may bestow a few pill samples on a patient now and again and even risk the loss of his Greedy Doctor street cred by covertly providing services [shudder] without charge, but those medications are freebies supplied by the pharmaceutical companies, allowing good ol’ Doc Showalter to take the credit while someone else foots the bill, and pro bono services are limited to a small percentage of the practice.

My insurance agent occasionally sends me a spiffy calendar-datebook (estimated value: $1.06) with his agency’s name emblazoned on the front in genuine imitation gold leaf. My dentist gives me toothbrushes and toothpaste that the manufacturers give him as promotions. I have some nifty t-shirts and caps with logos of companies to whom, in an astounding confluence of karmic forces, I have paid huge sums of money for goods or services. You get the idea.

Compare those sporadically occurring, strings-attached sorts of activities with the habitual behavior of teachers many of whom routinely spend hundreds of dollars annually to buy goods for the kids they teach, and, as far as I can determine, perversely refuse to take credit for doing so.

I find it embarrassing and outrageous that not only is this phenomenon large enough to make it profitable to open stores catering to these teachers but it is also pervasive enough to make what is, in effect, a retail facilitation of teachers subsidizing their own schools seem not only acceptable but laudable (“Helping You Help Kids”).

Perhaps the most pernicious aspect of this problem is that it is so epidemic and commonplace that it has become the expectation. How many new teachers have sufficient self-confidence and sangfroid to resist the peer pressure to buy that series of adventure books the first-graders love but the school won’t order, especially if every other first grade teacher bought those volumes? Worse, call me a cynic (go ahead, everyone else does), but it seems all too likely that these faculty contributions are quietly and casually factored into school budgets as a de facto kickback that is no less repugnant for being legal and, technically, voluntary.

The War On Teacher-Purchased School Supplies

Police Action: School Supplies Bust At Home Of Registered Elementary Teacher

Clearly, teachers cannot be trusted to voluntarily cease and desist this destructive habit. Given that teachers are so determined to help their students that they already surmount or maneuver past all manner of bureaucratic barriers, discouragements, opposition, and other hurdles parents, school systems, and various levels of government can throw in their way, one can anticipate that they will employ sneaky tactics to evade any prohibitions.

Black markets in art supplies will no doubt form in cafeteria storerooms and street corner pushers will be offering paperbacks and dime bags of glitter.

Imposing Severe Legal Penalties

Consequently, the law must be detailed and draconian – for the teachers’ own good. To protect the children, offenders will be required to register with all crossing guards and hallway monitors within five miles of their homes and will not be permitted to come within 100 yards of retail outlets selling items that could be used by a student.

I am recommending government-funded twelve-step detoxification programs and half-way houses for those willing to accept help, but such offers of assistance must be balanced with swift and sure punishment for the recalcitrant and the recidivistic (for teachers reading this, “punishment” is identical to “consequences”).

A few 3rd and 4th grade teachers standing in corners may help convince others to forgo such crimes.

For the hard core offenders, however, severe retribution is essential. With the recent parochial schools closings, there must be roving bands of nuns who were formerly employed as teachers and who could easily make the transition to the penal system, serving as itinerant executioners, rulers at the ready to ruthlessly pummel the hands of repeat offenders.

I suppose that we could first try treating teachers like professionals doing an important job instead of dilettantes with a need to bleed off excessive cash.

But if that doesn’t work, I say we force teachers to keep their entire salaries, whether they like it or not.

Credit Due Department: Police photo by West Midlands Police from West Midlands, United Kingdom – Day 53 – Early morning drugs raid in Dudley Uploaded by palnatoke, CC BY-SA 2.0, Link

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