Push in Arizona Legislature to help teachers buy school supplies

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There's a push in the Arizona legislature right now to help teachers buy supplies for their classrooms. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5) There's a push in the Arizona legislature right now to help teachers buy supplies for their classrooms. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
(3TV/CBS 5) -

There's a push in the Arizona Legislature right now to help teachers buy supplies for their classrooms.  

A decade ago, the state cut hundreds of millions of dollars from school funding, which has meant less money for salaries, programs, and even school supplies.

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So many teachers spend their own money to get their students things like pencils, markers, crayons, construction paper and glue.

"So we have done some informal polling and it is anything from $400 a year up to $2,000 a year," said Representative Kristen Engel of District 10.

[RELATED: Hundreds protest low teacher pay at Phoenix radio station]

She says teachers are buying supplies that are truly needed to have quality instruction.

"Not all students learn by hearing. So they need to be touching, doing, moving and that requires resources," added Amy Ball, a teacher at Madison Traditional Academy in Phoenix.

[READ MORE: AZ teachers wear red in push for pay raise; future strike a possibility]

Ball has been a kindergarten teacher for 12 years and can't imagine doing anything else.

But she says right now is a very stressful time for teachers in Arizona. Not because they spend a lot of their own money on school supplies but because teachers are underpaid and underappreciated.   

[MORE: State has budget surplus but no promises for more teacher pay raises]

"We are currently ranked 51st. So 51st in the country," Ball explains. "It makes you feel like you're not being valued for the work you are doing, the degrees you've earned, the time that you've spent ... and that's why many teachers are leaving the profession."

Ball says despite the low salaries, teachers are spending their own money for supplies because they love their kids and want the best for them.

Ball is lucky. She's in a district where parents are able to donate many of the supplies but in lower-income areas, teachers end up having to buy a lot more. 

[RELATED: Paradise Valley teacher says her pay is nearly unlivable, posts pay stub online]

Engel sponsored HB 2373. It gives teachers a $150 cash stipend for supplies. They would get that money at the beginning of the school year to buy things for their classroom.

Another measure is HB 2377.  This would give a $150 tax credit for teachers who buy classroom supplies.

[RELATED: Teachers argue for tax cut windfall to finance pay raises]

While Ball says any amount will help, it's just a band-aid for a bigger problem. 

"We are in a teacher shortage crisis," she said. "Being ranked 51st in teacher pay in the country, we need a plan from our government to fix that." 

[READ MORE: Gov. Ducey plans to add $100M in capital funding for schools]

The Arizona House approved the bills last week, they now head to the Senate for action.

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