Teachers start pre-planning days next week, but this week they’re shopping for classroom supplies and spending more of their own money than ever before.
"We didn’t get our ‘Sonny money,’ so we have to buy supplies out of pocket," said Linda Elliott, a paraprofessional for third-, fourth- and fifth-graders at Banks County Elementary School.
Each year, teachers in Georgia are usually provided with $100 gift cards for school supplies through Gov. Sonny Perdue’s office. This year, budget cuts have slashed funds for supplies. Elliott said she was more selective about what she bought Thursday while shopping at Pierce Wholesale on Jesse Jewell Parkway.
"It definitely has an impact on what I’m willing to buy," she said. "Teachers are trying to be more versatile and find supplies that can be used at different times and places."
Many teachers started shopping Thursday to take advantage of the state’s sales-tax free weekend.
"I’m trying to avoid the busy weekend, and I’m definitely buying more for my classroom this year," said Patsy Mossman, an eighth-grade math teacher at North Habersham County Middle School. "I always buy my own bulletin board decorations, but this year I’ll do more to reflect school standards, which can stay up the whole year."
A slash in funds for teachers could also mean a cut in business, said Duane Pierce, owner of Pierce Wholesale.
"With teachers spending their own money, they’re certainly buying less," he said. Teachers, who used to pack the store to spend the $100 gift cards, trickled in and out on Thursday. Wal-Mart on Shallowford Road set up a lane specifically for teachers between 8 a.m. and noon today.
"We want to pay special attention to them specifically, and I’ll open up another lane if I need to," said store manager Anthony Howard. "There are teachers who work here also, and they’ve had to buy from their own pockets this year."
Parents are seeing the cutbacks hit their wallets as well.
"The school supply lists are longer this year, and that makes it harder financially," said Wanda Coppin, who shopped at School Tools & Office Pros on Browns Bridge Road with her two sons. Teachers who can’t provide the usual supplies for their students asked for glue, scissors, tissues and even hand sanitizer for the classroom.
Another solution for parents? Don’t buy everything on the list.
"I’m not buying more than I did last year," said Tania Constantina, a senior at Habersham Central High School who shopped with her mother and younger siblings on Thursday. "Is anything that different? Not really."
Although the $100 was cut, it’s better than losing jobs, said Sheila Garrison, a fourth-grade teacher at Union County Elementary School.
"We just found out about our three furlough days, which will probably come from pre-planning and post-planning teacher workdays," she said. "But our school was actually fortunate enough to find money toward the end of last year to give us money to buy supplies now."