Here’s a letter from a Camden Public Schools student, Kashamire Roy:
One of the problems is not having enough supplies. Sometimes we don’t have enough workbooks, so teachers have to copy pages out of the book and make worksheets. Also some teachers have to spend money out of their pockets on supplies that should already be supplied…. Teachers can do but so much with not enough textbooks.
That’s from today’s NJ Spotlight, which features 5 letter from Camden 7th graders. The kids’ teacher brought the letters to the Camden School Board meeting earlier this week when the Board voted to not challenge the state takeover of the troubled district.
Lack of supplies is a theme of these heartful letters.. Student Toni Bronson writes that “Also another reason the students aren’t achieving (is) because we need new materials, notebooks, textbooks, desks, computers.”
It’s unclear why these students and their teachers lack basic instructional materials: paper, textbooks, notebooks. According to the Camden 2012-2013 budget, each student is allotted $438 for “general supplies and textbooks.” Is that a lot or a little? Next door at Cherry Hill Public Schools, each student is allotted $187. Not much further away, Mt. Laurel spends $172 per student on general supplies.(See here for DOE budget database.)
So maybe our economically-impoverished districts need more support with supplies: makes sense, right? Trenton, a district with a similar enrollment to Camden, allots $331 per student, about 30% less than Camden.
Not to belabor the point, but what’s going on with Camden’s general supplies budget line? The district already has a Fiscal Monitor. Why don’t these kids and their teachers have access to paper and textbooks? Heck, for $438 you could buy them each a tablet.