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Published: Wednesday, 3/9/2005

Temperance: Teachers may be getting some help to buy supplies


TEMPERANCE - For Temperance Road Elementary School kindergarten teacher Cindy Dressel, buying stacks of stickers, paper plates, and even stick-on eyes for homemade rabbits is just a part of the job that she's held for 34 years.

"I just see teachers buying all kinds of things," said Mrs. Dressel, who is a lead teacher at the Bedford school. "You're always trying to motivate the kids. I think many teachers spend $350 a year or more [on supplies for their classroom]. It's just part of the territory as a teacher."

But if a new local fund-raising effort is successful, the price of motivating children may soon decline for teachers.

The Bedford Community Foundation last week unveiled a new fund that it hopes will one day reimburse educators for the out-of-pocket expenses they incur for classroom supplies.

At a recent press conference, Monroe Bank & Trust pledged the first $5,000 toward what Foundation President Steve Elzinga hoped would soon be a $100,000 endowed instructional fund.

Mr. Elzinga credited the idea for the fund to longtime foundation member and Bedford supporter Norb Able, who said he hoped the fund would "make our students in Bedford Township a cut above" those elsewhere.

"Right now, there's a crunch on money for education," Mr. Able said. "What we're saying is that [classroom supplies] aren't the responsibility of the teacher."

Ted Magrum, Bedford's assistant superintendent for finance, said the district has currently budgeted $405,000 to pay for teacher supplies, field trips, media center materials, and other such things. During the 2003-04 school year, the district's seven schools spent about $287,000 of the $346,000 budgeted for such expenditures.

Mr. Magrum said the district changed its policy regarding such spending two years ago, allowing buildings to carry over any budgeted funds they hadn't used until the next school year.

"In the past, it was a policy of 'use it or lose it.' But allowing the buildings to decide how best to spend that money, and when, seems to have eliminated a lot of the spending that we used to see late in the year, whether teachers needed [the items they bought] or not," Mr. Magrum said.

Teachers are not totally without means to have their classroom expenditures reimbursed now.

Parent-teacher associations at several area schools raise money to help offset those costs, including up to $100 per teacher per year at Mrs. Dressel's Temperance Road Elementary.

In addition, recent tax-law changes allow teachers to claim a deduction of up to $250 for their ancillary classroom items.

Mr. Elzinga admitted that, when and if the new fund reaches its hoped-for funding level of $100,000, it likely won't generate more than a few thousand dollars per year in interest earnings that could be passed out in grants.

But, he said, every little bit helps.

"It's an extra thing, really. We're never going to be able to match what the district does, but it will grow over time," he said.

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