Squeezed by classroom budget cuts, Tom Farber is selling ads on his exams to cover the costs of printing them. But Farber doesn't want it to become standard operating procedure. "My intention is, [selling ads] is a stopgap measure," said Farber. "I don't want to be doing this year after year".
Farber started letting parents and local businesses sponsor tests this fall after learning budget cuts would limit his in-school printing allowance to $316 for the year. The cost of printing quizzes and tests for his 167 students will easily be more than $500. That meant Farber, whose courses prepare students for the Advanced Placement exam, would have to give fewer or shorter tests, or find money. Farber, who says 90 percent of his students got a 5 -- the top score -- on AP exams last year, said skimping wasn't an option.
So Farber, who says he'd never asked for money from parents in his 18 years of high school teaching, pitched the ad idea to parents at a September back-to-school night. For checks made to the math department -- $10 a quiz, $20 a test or $30 for a final exam -- they could insert an inspirational quote -- their own or someone else's -- or a business advertisement at the bottom of the first page. Here's a typical ad:
"Brace yourself for a great semester! Braces by Henry, Stephen P. Henry D.M.D.," read one of the ads in small type at the bottom of a quiz's first page.
So far, he's collected more than $300, and he believes he'll top $1,000, with some ad buyers paying more than required. All amounts beyond his shortfall will cover colleagues' printing costs.
California's budget crisis has forced Farber's school district, Poway Unified, to cut costs. The California Federation of Teachers says the state cut more than $4 billion in education spending this year. Phillips said that when the district sought to chop $11 million from its $265 million annual budget, it wanted to keep teachers but cut other areas. Among the things to go was 30 percent to 40 percent of Poway schools' materials spending -- including copying. And it could get worse if California follows through on proposed plans to implement $2.5 billion in additional mid-year education cuts.
Farber doesn't know of any Poway teachers wanting to replicate the ad idea, but he said educators there have long spent out-of-pocket for supplies. And this is a national phenomenum; Susan Carmon of the National Education Association said a 2003 study on the issue found U.S. teachers spent an average of $450 of their own money for school resources.
Most feedback has been positive.
Ironically, KSL also reports that a Utah school district may have a similar supply crunch. Teachers in the newly-formed Canyons School District say they need school supplies, yet it appears the district keeps adding to the bureaucracy. One second-grade teacher says his students don't even have math books, but the new district keeps hiring more secretaries. However, Canyons District spokeswoman Jennifer Toomer-Cook says it's a temporary problem that will be resolved for keeps once the district takes full control in July 2009. The Canyons School District was once the eastern part of the sprawling Jordan School District until voters decided to split it.
However, the Canyons situation is a fluke at the moment. Kim Campbell, president of the Utah Education Association, says there is money for school supplies in Utah, but she is worried. "It may be interesting what happens to that in this budget because of the tougher economic situation," she said. Campbell added that some new teachers pay from $200 to $2,000 out of their own pockets for supplies. She says one teacher even picks up pens at conferences so there are enough for the students.
Commentary: Why are the kids not bringing their own supplies? Why aren't the parents springing for their kids' supplies? Many parents think nothing of shelling out $100 to $200 for their kids to play high-maintenance sports like football or hockey, but won't spend a dime on pens or crayons.
Believe it or not, teachers claim they're limited in what they can ask parents to send to school. One teacher posted the following comment to the KSL story:
You can't require students to send supplies in Utah
by Virginia Man @ 7:53pm - Mon Dec 8th, 2008
Where I teach you cannot ask parents to send anything to school. Every thing that the children need must be supplied by the school (read that as I spend a lot of money on supplies). The idea is that it's a 'free public education.' In other states it is acceptable to have students send supplies that they will use (paper, pencils, crayons, glue). Not in Utah. That's why teachers run to Wal-Mart when crayons are 14 cents. At the beginning of every year teachers talk about where they found a great deal on folders or paper or glue.
So - help a teacher out - send in some grade-level appropriate supplies. Your child's teacher can't ask you to send them and he or she probably spent quite a bit of money and time getting them for your child. Your kid is chewing on pencils and breaking crayons that the teacher probably bought. I can't tell you how much I spend on things like tissues - kids have runny noses. I can't ask parents to send in tissues and our supply budget didn't even cover all the copy paper we need for the year.
I could really get in trouble for asking parents to send in supplies. No joke.
I might sell ad space on my spelling tests. I think I'll advertise for school supplies! Maybe parents will buy some and send them in!!! I'll just put a picture of whatever we need at the bottom. Is it a copyright violation for me to put a picture of an Elmer's Glue Bottle on a spelling test?
That seems to be an unnecessarily restrictive policy. There's just too much formality and bureaucracy in public education today.