School Climate & Safety

Union Slams New Mexico Plan to Give Teachers Classroom-Supply Money

By Ross Brenneman — September 18, 2015 1 min read
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Every year, teachers spend hundreds of dollars of their own money on school supplies. As an attempt to mitigate a persistent problem, New Mexico’s Department of Education will present some 23,000 teachers with $100 Visa prepaid cards for use on classroom materials.

The gift card allotments stem from a push by Gov. Susana Martinez (pictured above), and money for them was included in the most recent state budget.

Only, as the Associated Press reports, at least one local teachers’ union, the Albuquerque Teachers Federation, sees the cards as a distraction lobbed out by the state:

The union isn't taking an official stance on the cards, but union leaders are encouraging teachers to send Gov. Susana Martinez a signed postcard declaring "$100 will not buy my silence" while educators protest the state's new teacher evaluation system. "Receiving this VISA card is not a 'privilege' as stated in the New Mexico Teacher's Classroom Supply Agreement; rather, it is an insult to all educators," the postcard reads. More importantly, teachers say the agreement they have to sign to get the cards puts their licenses in jeopardy if an out-of-state contractor concludes their purchases violate the agreement, union officials said.

This has been a tense week between the ATF and various levels of government; on Wednesday, they just managed to reach an accord with their district regarding teacher contracts.

As to the union’s point about teacher licenses being in jeopardy: The lengthy program rules look designed to stop any kind of fraud from happening. And according to the program rules, the more likely punishment for impropriety is disqualification from the program and a requirement to repay any unaccounted-for funds.

The program is heavy on bureaucracy, though: The card acquisition and documentation rules are pretty extensive, and while they don’t bar phone or online purchases (a dollar on Amazon often goes further than a dollar at a local brick-and-mortar shop), the process for such shopping is annoying. So yes: There’s a good deal of red tape.

At the same time: 100 bucks!

Then again: There are probably a lot of parents who would like $100 to put toward school supplies for their children, too.

Image: New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez speaks at a press conference earlier this month in Albuquerque, N.M. Credit: Russell Contreras/AP

More on funding for school supplies:

A version of this news article first appeared in the Teaching Now blog.