The City Council budget approved on June 29 may have saved teachers’ jobs, but it could not save Teacher’s Choice, dampening teachers’ summer ritual of shopping for fresh classroom supplies.
The Teacher’s Choice program — established in the 1980s by the United Federation of Teachers and City Council to support teachers’ discretionary spending — has been suspended this school year. The program allowed teachers to make tax-exempt purchases for their classrooms and to be reimbursed for a set amount.
That amount has been steadily reduced over the last few years, from $220 at its peak to $110 in the last school year, making the cut somewhat predictable. Even so, many teachers see it as a blow to their morale, if not their pockets.
“More than the dollar amount, I think it’s the concept,” said Jeri Legions, a 2nd grade teacher in Brooklyn who has been teaching 11 years. “Because the concept says: ‘We understand that you’re putting out a lot, and we’re supporting you in that.’”
Ms. Legions, who always outspent the allocation anyway, was strolling the aisles of Barclay School Supplies in Brooklyn on a recent August afternoon, looking for the perfect plan book.
Other teachers maneuvered shopping carts in the aisles around her, browsing for nonfading bulletin board paper, sparkly borders and job charts.
Teachers said they will continue to buy for their students and classrooms, but will spend less than they have in past years. Store employees said they have seen the effect.
Brijmohan Anup, Barclay’s general manager, said that spending has decreased 27 percent from last July to this July. Although teachers could not be compensated under Teacher’s Choice for supplies bought before Aug. 1, many teachers would get a head start, he said.
And in August, he said, there would be four or five lines of shoppers at the register. This year, there was often just one.