Tennessee lawmakers may ease burden of teachers paying for student supplies

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – A costly burden for Tennessee teachers is about take place again as another school year is just weeks away, but state lawmakers may offer help next session.

Talk to almost any teacher in any corner of the state and you will hear they spend a lot out of their own pockets for much needed classroom supplies.

“I spent a thousand dollars in my classroom in my first year of teaching,” is what former Nashville fourth grade teacher Whitney Holland said in April during a visit to her classroom. Holland said she bought things like shower panels that work like white boards for writing, an old shoe rack re-configured to hold classwork in rooms without desks, and bin after bin to hold books.

What she did during her first year of her career is done by thousands of other new Tennessee teachers. There’s even a social media meme comparing a starkly supplied government-funded classroom to one flush with teacher-funded supplies.

It’s gotten the attention of state lawmaker like Rep. Eddie Johnson of Knoxville.

“Last fall some friends of mine who were going into teaching for the first time were doing GoFundMe pages trying to raise a thousand dollars just to buy supplies for their classroom,” the lawmaker said with a shake of his head Monday at his Capitol Hill office.

Rep. Smith said the incident sparked a bill he sponsored to help those first year teachers. His bill to give them $500 for supplies brought passed unanimously in the House but stalled in the Senate Finance Committee. The lawmaker hopes his bill can be revived next year with its narrow focus.

“Its really just for those teachers who are just starting their career in the teaching profession that they can get their classroom set up,” added Rep. Smith. “And give their students the best chance to succeed so teachers don’t have to scramble to get those basic supplies.”

The lawmaker estimates 7,000 first-year teachers would get that $500 to help hundreds of thousands of students. This year, every individual teacher in Tennessee this year will receive $200 for school supplies. In previous years, that figure for individual teachers was $100.

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