Education News

Nov 7, 2011 9:19 AM by Angela Marshall (KAJ News)

Missoula teachers struggle with shrinking budgets

MISSOULA- Pens, pencils and paper are just some of your basic school supplies and every year, teachers in western Montana are forced to buy these basic items themselves just to provide your children with a balanced education. And it doesn't stop there.

"We do have a budget for materials to use. However, that has been cut every year," Chief Charlo Elementary School second grade teacher Carla Woehler said.

Teachers Carla Woehler and Charlie Struna and Karin Flint agree that school supplies are the building blocks for student success.

But, because budgets both in the school and at home are tight, our educators are finding they, themselves, have to purchase those products to supply the classroom.

"Sometimes you just have to cover those things on your own, especially if you want other materials that aren't a part of your curriculum, than teachers go find what they need and purchase it," Woehler, who also teaches second grade at Chief Charlo commented.

"You can't function in your classroom without it, so you provide it to make life easier. So, yeah, we spend a lot of money. On my taxes, I claim way more than what should come out of my pocket for school supplies," added Meadow Hill MIddle School seventh grade teacher Karen Flint added.

Even as we walked through the halls of Meadow Hill Middle School recently we heard kids shouting, "I need crayons".

"I guess that's harder for me than a student not having crayons. When they come to me and say, I haven't eaten since last night. Or, sometimes you'll see, if they do pack a lunch, it may not be what they need to fuel themself for the day. I always have fruit or something for them to eat," Woehler told us.

And, it doesn't stop there. Often times, they will reach into their wallets and pay for a student to go on a field trip, whose family can't otherwise afford to.

"Yes. Yes. It happens a lot. Whenever we do do a trip that costs money, we always tell the kids scholarships are available," Meadow Hill seventh grade teacher Charlie Struna said.

"I think the field trips are really critical because they give an extension that we can't find in the classroom. And, that's the stuff that kids remember. That's when we have the best attendance," Flint stated.

But, busing is a huge expense. So, how do they do it, especially as costs on everything continue to rise?

"Missoula Alliance Church has been a wonderful neighbor to us. They will actually provide school supplies. They will give us backpacks with school supplies and then let us distribute," Woehler explained.

Another question is how they manage to do it all while also maintaining the teaching standards set by the federal No Child Left Behind Act.

"No Child Left Behind becomes increasingly more difficult each year. But, I guess, rather than the concern over the supplies, it's more of a concern over the children and are their needs being met, so they're ready to take in all that we present to them through the year, so that can continue to meet those standards," Woehler reflected.."

All of the teachers we interviewed for this story agreed that the to this problem is creative thinking on budgets, because both in the school and at home, continue to be tight.

Contact Angela Marshall

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