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Tighter budgets mean teachers are getting crafty
[October 09, 2010]

Tighter budgets mean teachers are getting crafty

ROCK FALLS, Oct 08, 2010 (Daily Gazette - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) -- Tighter school budgets and an unresolved state budget crisis mean Sauk Valley teachers are being more creative than ever to cover classroom expenses.

The National School Supply & Equipment Association said teachers spent $1.33 billion of their own money in the 2009-10 school year on everything from pencils, pens and notebooks to computer games and equipment.

In the past, when Rock Falls High School teacher and English Department Chairwoman Lori Kyger would tell her students to make a poster, students would provide extra poster boards on their own. Now, half of the time, they don't, and neither does the school.

"The budget has provided us with enough money to get essential supplies," Kyger said. "There are certainly times when I need crafty supplies -- markers, poster board, scissors and glue. Partially due to the economic situation, I don't have money to grab extra supplies." Under the high school's zero-growth budget, the allotment for supplies in the English department is $9,675 -- and has been for the past 4 years, Principal Ron McCord said.

The funds are supposed to cover all classroom expenses, including textbooks, for the six official department teachers.

Textbooks are costly, so they are bought before other supplies. That quickly eats up the budget, often leaving teachers to purchase other supplies on their own.

"I usually don't worry too much about it," Kyger said. "If I need it, I go out. I've done better budgeting myself.

"As long as I have the money, I do not mind spending it to benefit students." McCord said that "most of the products that teachers purchase on their own, they turn in for reimbursement." "You want to enrich your curriculum and instruction as much as possible," McCord said. "The more things that make learning relevant, more hands on, research says is good practice." At Sterling High School, the total supply budget for all education fund programs went from $480,800 last year to $369,810 this year, Assistant to the Superintendent Tim Schwingle said.

The high school's science department budget dropped 41 percent, from $11,900 to $7,000.

That led science teacher Julie Gonzalez to resort to alternate methods to fulfill what she sees as classroom necessities.

Gonzalez discovered an online website called that allows anyone to donate to public schools.

She wanted to provide her incoming freshmen Accelerated Biology students with mini laptops to help complete assignments and papers.

"These mini laptops will give students that don't have computers at home the opportunity to type papers when needed," she wrote in her online proposal, the only one from Whiteside County on the site.

She is asking for about $740 to cover the cost of the computers, which also will arm her students with the skills they need to successfully complete assignments in college.

"A lot of them will be first-time college students in their families, or they are from a background where they don't know how they could get the money," Gonzalez said. "No matter where they are from, you can still push them to attend college." There are two desktop computers in her classroom now, shared by 24 students. The two additional mini computers would bring the department total to 15.

To help Go to and search for "Illinois-State" then "Whiteside County." Sterling High School science teacher Julie Gonzalez's project is called "Technology for Teens." To see more of The Daily Gazette or to subscribe to the newspaper, go to Copyright (c) 2010, Daily Gazette, Sterling, Ill.

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