Money for teachers to buy pencils, crayons on chopping block


School supplies and information are shown at booths at the Cox Back to School Fair at the Galleria at Sunset mall on Saturday, Aug. 6, 2016.

Sat, Jul 18, 2020 (2 a.m.)

Kristan Nigro, a kindergarten teacher in Clark County, has bought math games, pencils, crayons and other supplies out of her own pocket for years.

After eight years teaching, she estimates she spends about $500 to $750 a year on supplies.

“Without those things, I don’t think I could do what I do in my classroom,” she said.

To help offset some of those expenses, a special state fund reimbursed teachers a couple hundred dollars a year.

It appears that’s about to end.

A budget-cutting bill expected to pass the Legislature today eliminates the Teachers’ School Supplies Reimbursement Account, initially earmarked to get $4.5 million in fiscal 2021.

It’s a tiny part of a plan to close a $1.2 billion hole in the state budget caused by a steep drop in tax revenue from business closures during the coronavirus pandemic.

For Nigro and other teachers, it’s something else.

“This is kind of just another slap to the face that just shows Nevada has no desire to better education,” Nigro said.

According to the National Education Association, U.S. teachers on average spend $459 annually of their own money on school supplies. In Nevada, the average is $534 a year.

The reimbursement program is a popular one in Nevada. During the 2019-2020 school year, an estimated 15,644 teachers in the Clark County School District participated in the program.

A total of $3.1 million was sent to Clark County teachers through the program in fiscal 2020. The average was a little over $190 per teacher.

The cuts to the teachers’ reimbursement fund are part of a much larger expected cut to K-12 education. A total of $156 million was targeted from K-12 schools over the protestations of educators and education activists.

The cuts come as public school districts are facing unprecedented health and safety expenses as they prepare for instruction to resume during the pandemic.

The likely effects will be felt in the fall, as programs that would decrease class sizes, work toward making sure kids can read by third grade and help English-language learners are all on the chopping block.

The Nevada State Education Association said the cuts could hurt some of the state’s neediest students.

“Monies cut from school equity programs will erase years of work to meet the needs of the most vulnerable students,” the association said in a statement submitted for public comment.

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