The PPE burden falling on teachers
|The pandemic has sent the cost of opening U.S. schools soaring, and teachers are finding they are being asked to pick up a big chunk of the tab.
The American Federation of Teachers estimates it will cost $116 billion to reopen U.S. schools safely, which dwarfs the additional $70 billion in funding Senate Republicans have proposed. Supplies such as hand sanitizer, wipes and thermometers could cost $33 per student during the school year; a reusable mask for every pupil each day, $133.
America’s public-school teachers are already shelling out an average of nearly $500 a year on school supplies out of their own pockets to fund classrooms. Now, amid the pandemic and insufficient funding, educators are finding the burden of subsidizing classroom reopening falling on them while politicians quarrel over how much assistance they should offer.
Asking teachers to subsidize protective equipment such as masks and sanitizer “is a demonstration of the extent of the exploitation teachers face,” AFT President Randi Weingarten said in an email. “Now, in the face of a pandemic, and with lack of any planning or funding from the federal government, it’s become a matter of life and death.”
Teachers in low-income districts will likely be hit harder as more wealthier communities pass off some of the cost to parents, according to Adam Newman, co-founder and managing director at Tyton Partners, an education-focused investment banking and consulting firm. Educators in these communities also tend to pay more on average for schools supplies to begin with, federal data show, with urban schools spending more than their suburban and rural counterparts.
“One of the worst kept secrets is that classrooms are funded in large part by what teachers spend out of pocket,” said Noelle Ellerson Ng, who directs federal policy for the School Superintendents Association. “It’s just a reality we aren’t sweeping under the rug anymore.”— Olivia Raimonde and Leslie Patton