By Jan Carabeo
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Back to school shopping is now in full swing throughout the Delaware Valley, but for some, what was once a time of excitement has now turned into a hardship.
Teachers with bags filled with classroom supplies streamed out of Becker’s Parent Teacher store in Northeast Philadelphia on Friday.
Jennifer Kennedy was busy inside the store. As a Philadelphia school teacher facing yet another year of painful budget cuts, she’s already spent close to $300 of her own money on school supplies, and class hasn’t even started yet.
“We used to have a big supply closet that we would go to; the only thing we’re getting now are maybe pencils,” Kennedy said.
She’s issued a school supply list to her students. It includes pencils, markers, folders and the like, but the needs of Philadelphia school teachers go far beyond that.
“You have to make sure you bring your own toilet paper, paper towels, hand sanitizer,” Diane Reznik said.
While teachers don’t officially return to school until Sept. 2nd, Reznik has already checked out her classroom, and she fears this school year could be worse than last.
“My room wasn’t cleaned, so I have to be the cleaner,” Reznik said.
Facing an $81 million budget gap, the District’s latest round of cuts — for one — means schools will be cleaned less frequently.
“If you need to, you bring in your own vacuum cleaners, your own cleaning supplies,” Kennedy said.
While many teachers say their supply lists are longer this year, they still expect to pay more out of pocket. They say they understand that many parents just can’t afford to buy more.
“It’s hard enough keeping up with the regular list, but every year it seems like they keep adding extra,” said Dwayne Simpson, whose son is going into second grade this fall.
It’s just as frustrating for teachers. They voiced their concerns to the Philadelphia Teachers Federation for the second day Friday outside district headquarters.
“The children need a lot better place to go to school; it’s not fair to them,” teacher Elizabeth Pond said.
PFT President Jerry Jordan agrees.
“It’s gotten to a point where it’s unacceptable that teachers are expected to buy paper,” Jordan said.
He spent Thursday and Friday listening to teachers as the union prepares to head back to the bargaining table. The district has asked the PFT to make concessions, mainly benefits changes, to help close the budget gap.
“We will do everything that we can to get an agreement as soon as possible,” he said.
The school district has said if more funding is not found by mid-October, millions of dollars in temporary cuts could become permanent and more than a thousand employees could lose their jobs. Those temporary cuts announced Aug. 15th touched everything from security to teacher development; however, during the School Reform Commission meeting on Thursday, the district put on hold planned cuts to transportation. Those would have left 7,500 high school students who live within two miles of their school building looking for another ride to school.
According to the district, the temporary cuts were necessary in order to open schools on time on Sept. 8th.
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