Wal-Mart Offers Price Break, But Can Teachers Save on Supplies?

Walmart has announced that for the first time it is offering teachers across the country a 10% discount on any classroom supplies purchased during Walmart’s Teacher Appreciation Week, July 25-31.

The company says that 53% of US teachers received less funding during the last school year.  The products that will be eligible for the discount number 15,000 and include everything needed for the classroom from pencils to classroom décor.

Over the last five years, Walmart has donated more than $20 million to US educators.

“On average, teachers around the country spend about $1,000 readying their classrooms, and half of that comes from reaching into their own wallets to make sure students have what they need,” said Steve Bratspies, executive vice president, general merchandise for Walmart U.S. “We’ve had a commitment to supporting teachers in the communities we serve for many years. This program is one more way we’re helping lessen the cost, increase support and set teachers up for success.”

Ashlee Kieler, writing for Consumerist.com, says there is a catch.  The discount will be given in the form of a Walmart eGift card that can be obtained after making a purchase.  This means the savings will involve teachers having to come back with the e-card, which they will receive online after the first purchase, to spend it.  She also adds that only certain supplies will be eligible for the discount.

This is still a help, but few teachers have time for this protracted process, especially since most teachers are already busily preparing for the school year. Kieler says this is still a better idea than the small personal loans that many teachers use to pay for classroom supplies.

Tamar Snyder, writing for Edutopia.org, says that there are other ways in which teachers can use their creativity to not only fluff up their teaching spaces, but also to purchase those supplies that their schools’equipment and supply stipend just cannot stretch to afford.

- Recycling – sites like Freecycle and Craigslist are worth investigating.  You have to pick up, but free is always a good thing.

- Teachers at schools where 60% or more of students qualify for free lunch can shop at resource centers, available in many cities, where supplies have been donated by local businesses.

- Teachers can join an online group, like Yahoo Group or Elementary Teachers Network, and post classroom supply needs.  Many people enjoy sharing or trading to keep costs down.

Adopt A Classroom connects teachers to community supporters who may contribute to individual classrooms.

- OfficeMax, in partnership with Adopt-A-Classroom, awards 1,000 teachers $1,000 worth of supplies based on submitted nominations to A Day Made Better.

There are very few professions which require their members to purchase their own supplies.  Teachers have had to do just that for a long time.  Maria F. Durand writing for ABC News, quotes a science teacher from Denver.

“As a science teacher, I have an official budget, but that is usually gone by the beginning of the year,” says Hogue, who works in suburban Denver. “When I want to do a science lab, I usually pay for it all on my own.”

Hogue has discovered that there is private funding  that can help.  He has asked NASA, US Geological Society and private corporations for support in accessing the supplies he needs for his classroom experiments.  Hogue tells his colleagues that “there are people who are willing to help out”.