NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — Hallie Trauger has been a teacher for about eight years, with about one-and-a-half of those in Tennessee.
“I teach technical subjects, I teach engineering, biotechnology, science,” she said. “I like that blend of, I’m working with students every day, but we also get to be a bit nerdy together.”
Every year, teachers spend much of their own money to buy instructional materials—things like pens, paper, classroom decorations, project materials, etc.
“Every single time that I need a supply for a student project, I need particular colors of paper for some kind of activity, I need the flexibility to be able to go out to the store and get some stuff,” Traeger said. “So, we have the $200 of BEP funding and that’s helpful toward that, but it just isn’t enough.”
BEP stands for Basic Education Program—the current education model in Tennessee. It allocates $200 a year for teachers to use in their classrooms.
“My personal household budget right now, I budget $100 a month in addition because I know that’s going to happen,” Trauger said. “I’m not trying to, but I’m going to have some student needs.”
Soon though, teachers could get a small boost. Rep. Scott Cepicky (R-Culleoka) introduced HB0007, which would increase the stipend for teachers’ classroom materials.
“One thing that’s been a common thread is that teachers are spending a lot of money on their classrooms,” he said. “Some teachers are spending over $1000.”
If passed, the bill would give each teacher $300 extra for instructional materials, more than doubling the current total of $200. If a teacher doesn’t use all $500, the money would then go to a pooled fund to buy equipment for all teachers.
Cepicky said the idea came from a tour of roughly 30 different districts, and the message was similar from one to the next.
“It came from talking to teachers. My father always taught me that if you want to get good information, talk to the boots on the ground,” he said. “Our teachers are the ones that do it every day, they know exactly what they need for their classrooms, they know exactly what the shortcomings are in their classrooms.”
The potential 150% increase is something the Tennessee Education Association (TEA) says it’s extremely grateful for—even if it is past due and on a non-recurring basis.
“Every year, we need to have a percentage increase in the funding that helps educators get the right resources for every student across the state of Tennessee,” TEA president Tanya Coats said.
“That’s going to be enough that then teachers can have that flexibility to say, ‘Hey I can buy the things that I really feel like I need without knowing that I’m going to be dipping into my pocket,’” Traeger said.
The bill now heads to the General Assembly once session starts next year.