Education Budget: Do the Math

>>IMG_5945_By NaShonda Cooke

Target  $30.35

Consignment store $34.91

Office Depot/Office Max $16.54

Staples $6.5

Walmart $140.35
Well that’s a total of $228.66 I’ve spent so far for this year’s classroom supplies. I have two daughters and about 25 students that I am purchasing necessary supplies for. And believe it or not, I’m not done. There’s more that my classroom desperately needs that just isn’t in the school’s budget.


How in the world am I suppose to survive as a single mom if I’ve spent so much already.


Rent is $1150 and the rest of my utilities and bills are about $2000.


So let’s do some simple math: $2000 + $1150 + $229 = $3379. My monthly take-home income is $3500. That’s a whole $121 left to take care of my and my daughter’s medical needs, car maintenance, groceries, gas for the car, etc.


I’ve been teaching for 17 years and there is no math strategy that can make that $121 stretch. But the latest budget passed by the NCGA expects me to work miracles.


Oh, that’s right. We got a raise. This year I received a .96% raise. Woohoo! But wait. What is the rate increase for my utilities? Never mind. Good feeling gone.


So what is a single mother who has never wanted to do anything else in her life besides teach do if she is struggling to sufficiently take care of children? I absolutely love my job. It’s more than a career to me, it’s my passion. It’s my family’s tradition, but it’s not paying the bills.


I’m doing what a majority of my coworkers are doing if you ask them. I’m praying a lot! I’m depending on my family. I’m working odds and ends jobs. I’m not having the vacations and birthday parties my girls deserve. I’m cutting corners and budgeting tighter than sealed state assessments for my students.


Imagine taking your daughter to a place she’s wanted to visit her entire life but only for an hour. You can’t stay overnight and you have to window shop because money has to go towards gas to get us back home. This literally broke my heart a few weeks ago when we visited New Orleans. Victoria was grateful, but I wanted to give her so much more. She deserves it.


I also eat peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for dinner when my girls are visiting their father to cut back on grocery bills. I shop at consignment stores for our new school wardrobe. My girls now share a room instead of having their own room. Before and after school care costs are not possible. So they just hang with me in my classroom.


How much longer can I keep this up? Will this be my last year teaching? Is year number 18 it? I hope not, but $121 at the end of the month leads me to believe it just might be. What other choice do I have?
The general public doesn’t see what’s really going on public education the way those of us who walk into a school every morning do. All you know is what the media and those who make the laws want you to know and it’s not necessarily the truth.  Next week, I’m going to begin to give you a different perspective of it all, the inside scoop on everything from charter schools, teacher retention, the achievement gap, high-stakes testing, etc. And then I’ll let you know how you can help. I’ll give you an assignment. Don’t worry, I won’t be grading you.


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