Schools receive funding from multiple sources, but the average teacher has been kept in the dark as to how they can influence the spending of educational funds to benefit their classrooms. The teaching profession is full of the most giving people I have experienced, but they have some of the lowest salaries. This discrepancy is an issue that teachers face regularly. To begin a school year, a teacher must purchase an extreme amount of supplies to make their classroom workable. Most school principals do not supply teachers with basic office supplies, art supplies, bulletin boards, or classroom decorations, yet these are things that are expected of each and every teacher.
This past year, I assisted a teacher in “setting up” her new classroom and it cost a minimum of $300. The school supplied one computer, one projector, a teacher desk, student desks, and access to textbooks. All other supplies were required to be purchased by the teacher. She supplied her own pencils, pens, stapler, staples, printer, printer ink, decorations, calendar, the list goes on and on. Had she been given access to some of the funds that teachers can control, she could have saved some money.
Spending wisely is a necessity, but understanding the sources and regulations regarding the educational funds that schools have access to is a bit of information that most teachers have never learned. This article will focus on the three most common sources of funds, General Budget, Title I, and Educational Enhancement Funds, and how teachers can have a part in spending those funds to make their classrooms the best they can be.
General Budget Educational Funds
These educational funds are distributed to each school by the state government. State funds are allocated to schools according to the Average Daily Attendance of the school from the previous year. Specific funds are allotted according to formulas and guidelines that are specific to each state and its laws. The school administrator spends those funds to run the basic needs of the school. Those needs include textbooks, workbooks, desks, computers, supplies, copiers, etc. Those educational funds are also for professional development, field trips, and community involvement. Teachers usually do not have access to these funds and do not make decisions on how to prioritize the spending. But, that does not mean that they cannot influence those who do.
School administrators spend these funds in the best way that they can. To influence the administrator to spend funds in a way to better benefit the classrooms, teachers need to make their needs known. When I worked as an administrator, I learned that many teachers would just do without, rather than voice their needs. They didn’t want to be seen as a squeaking wheel, but the adage that the squeaking wheel gets the grease is true. An administrator will not fund anything that she is unaware needs funding. Teachers should present their needs, ideas, and concerns to their administrators. Bring examples and prices to the discussion. The average school administrator will be more willing to agree to an expense when the research is done ahead of time.
Allotted educational funds must be spent by the end of the school year. If you are looking to get something for your classroom for the coming year, approach the school administrator by the beginning of April. Spending for the coming year begins at about this time and surpluses from the current year can be used to purchase items that can be used the next school year. Sometimes, it is all about the timing and April is a good time to present an administrator with your ideas and needs.
Title I Educational Funds
Many schools are also allotted educational funds from the federal government through Title I, Part A funding. Title I, Part A programs build equity of opportunity for children whose struggles often keep them on the academic sidelines. ESSA requires states and LEAs to implement programs and practices with a proven record of accomplishment of improving student academic achievement.
Key Elements of Title I, Part A Program
Extended Learning Opportunities–the LEA’s application must provide the type of and describe the extended learning opportunities that will provide additional academic assistance to students in meeting the Washington State K–12 challenging academic standards. These could be, extended days, pull-out, additional in-class support, summer school, tutoring, or any other research or evidence-based strategy. The LEA also must identify the specific needs of its special populations, if applicable, such as PD, early learning, preschool, homeless, and others. The following are the most common uses of Title I, Part A funds.
Professional Development–The academic success of students correlates highly with the qualifications and skills of their teachers. Ongoing PD is crucial to ensure their continuous improvement in the instructional skills needed to help all students meet or exceed proficiency targets on state academic assessments. An LEA must ensure that sufficient resources are devoted to carrying out PD activities effectively in each Title I, Part A school. An LEA may satisfy its requirement through districtwide PD activities and/or activities implemented by each Title I, Part A school.
Early Learning and Preschool–Title I, Part A can support early learning and preschool. Early learning activities can start at age five. Some LEAs may have to coordinate, integrate, and support the regular education programs, which includes services to assist in the transition from early childhood programs to other educational services. If applicable, LEAs may want to coordinate with Head Start and other preschool programs, including the development of plans for transition from these programs to elementary school programs.
Special Populations–If applicable, the LEA must review and assess resources and programs to make sure students identified as Homeless, Foster Care, English learners (ELs), special education, migrant, neglected, and Native American students have access to Title I, Part A services. The LEA should have a plan in place to make sure these special populations have access to Title I, Part A services in the same way as any other students.
At the end of every school year, schools and districts must reevaluate their federal spending and the programs being used to enhance their students’ educational experience. To improve the spending on your classroom, get involved in this process. Schools are required to have Title I meetings to discuss their spending. They conduct surveys of all stakeholders on the quality of the programs they have implemented. Voice your concerns and opinions. By being part of the decision-making process, funding will be better spent in ways you find benefit you most.
(EEF) Educational Enhancement Funds
Most states have a fund or program for funds that are given directly to teachers to use in their classrooms. In Mississippi, they are called Educational Enhancement Funds. In Louisiana, it is called the Educational Excellence Fund. No matter what it is called, these are funds that are distributed to individual teachers to use in their classrooms to purchase classroom supplies, instructional materials, instructional equipment, including computers and software. Classroom supply funds may not be expended for administrative purposes. These funds may only be used to supplement, not replace, other local and state funds available for the same purpose. This is the most flexible account of funds that a teacher can use. These funds are issued to teachers on a card that can be used in cooperating stores and online to purchase these approved materials for the classroom as the teachers see fit. Teachers are given guidelines to follow and parameters to spend within, but each classroom teacher can spend the funds on her specific needs.
To spend these funds, teachers must sign an agreement that outlines the proper spending and recordkeeping for the purchases made with these funds and is then issued a debit card to be used in making the purchases. Usually, the funds must be spent or allocated by the end of March; therefore, teachers should make plans to spend the funds and not rely on situational needs. Special projects or lessons can be great teaching tools and support the learning of the students. General budgets and Title I funds are not always available for the specific wants and needs of individual teachers. EEF funds are much more discretionary in that way.
Knowing more about the funding of schools will make it easier for teachers to secure the funds necessary to do what they want within their classrooms. Administrators have so many different aspects of their jobs that budgeting needs are sometimes not as well understood as they should be. Teachers are the biggest cogs in the machine that is education and their views and needs can guide spending when the teachers are a part of the process. Every stakeholder in education should be considered when budgeting all funds, but without guidance and input, those who budget the funds cannot know every want and need of each and every person. Processes are in place to get that feedback and input. Teachers sometimes ignore those meetings due to the extreme workload they have already. Getting involved and voicing those needs will make classrooms better for the teachers and the students. For more information about funding your classroom, visit our blog article Funding for Teachers in 2021 or our video Top 5 Teacher Requested Tech Tools.