The Cost of the Classroom

August 29, 2006 - Posted at 4:29 p.m. CDT

BROOKLAND, AR -- Students have been back in the classroom across Region 8 for just over a week now...but teachers have been busy preparing for this school year for a while.  But those bright, colorful rooms don't come cheap...and just who has to foot the bill for them?

"Look everyone, she made a rainbow out of her drawing!" said Mrs. Dugger to her classroom of first graders at Brookland Elementary.

Its Casey Dugger's first year teaching.  When she started, her classroom was no more than a blank slate.  Today, it's bursting with students ready to learn.

"I've spent about $100-$200 extra," admitted Dugger.

"The state gives teachers $20 per student, which they hope averages out to about $500 dollars a classroom," said Brookland Elementary Principal Rachel Wheeler, "The largest classroom capacity is 25 students.  At Brookland, we like to have our class sizes small, so we give all of our teachers $500 to spend for classroom supplies."

Dugger receives extra money for supplies because she is a first year teacher...but it still isn't enough.

"It defiantly takes a lot.  Defiantly a lot more than just what they bring to the classroom, defiantly," said Dugger.

"It takes a lot more money to set up a kindergarten classroom versus a high school classroom," said Wheeler, "Children in elementary level need a lot more hands on activities and so they have to buy a lot more different manipulative.  Anywhere from the little plastic counting bears to the square and different size blocks for geometry lessons.  Anything hands on, any of that small manipulative cost money and it adds up fast."

But Dugger says her students are worth the extra expense.  She bought books and basic supplies for the kids this year.

"I didn't even try to get a purchase order for that.  I just went over there and saw some cute things and that's just it, if you see some cute things on sale and things like that, sometimes it's just easier to buy it yourself," said Dugger.

Parents can also help out teachers by donating items around the house that may be useful in the classroom.