July 15, 2019 9:29:34 AM
Demetria White usually spends about $100 of her own money on classroom supplies each year. She says some of her fellow teachers spend even more.
White, who will begin her 21st year teaching kindergarten at Sale Elementary School in Columbus this fall, has been pulling money from her personal budget to spend on classrooms since before she can remember. It's just another fact of life as a teacher, she said, because there are certain things classrooms need that Columbus Municipal School District -- or any district, for that matter -- cannot provide.
"We want to make our classroom welcoming for the kids, we want to make sure we have everything they need to succeed," she said. "And all those supplies cost money."
This year, White and many other teachers plan to shop for classroom supplies on the same two days -- July 26 and 27 -- when those items can be purchased without the addition of the state's 7-percent sales tax, thanks to a bill state legislators passed this year that includes school supplies in the state's annual sales tax-free holiday weekend.
"It'll sure save me a couple dollars," White said. "I think it's great that school supplies are going to be included this year. Teachers haven't been able to take advantage of it, so this year I'll definitely be doing that. ... I work a second job to support myself, but I also work it to support my classroom. ... (Teachers) want to be innovative in our classrooms and with our students, but that all comes back to the budget. I'm already spending money trying to put things together to make (my classroom) a welcoming environment."
'It's part of being a teacher'
In 2009, the Mississippi Legislature enacted an annual sales tax-free holiday on clothing items and footwear that cost less than $100 each. This year, for the first time, school supplies have been added to the list, something Sen. Chuck Younger (R-Columbus), who co-authored the bill, believes is long overdue.
"My daughter is a teacher, and I know that every year they go out and spend their own money that they don't get back on extra supplies," he said. "We already had that holiday for school clothes, so adding school supplies to the list just makes sense.
"We have a tax-exempt holiday for firearms, and we said that if we have that, then we sure as heck need it for our teachers and our parents," he added. "It's just 100 percent good for everyone."
CMSD Superintendent Cherie Labat agrees. She has heard of many students in the district that benefit from teachers' generosity in providing school supplies that students lack, and believes the sales tax-free holiday will enable teachers, as well as other organizations, to stretch their money farther.
"There are outreach organizations that provide supplies to children and the community, so students for sure will have ways to get what they need," she said. "I know everyone at CMSD is really excited that supplies are tax-free, honestly. It benefits us and it benefits the kids. We have supply lists out so hopefully students will be better prepared."
Morgan Abraham, a former teacher at, and current principal of Sudduth Elementary School in Starkville, said there will probably always be a shortage of supplies in classrooms. As a mother of a first-grader, she knows firsthand the cost of every item on the district's annual supply lists. As an educator, she knows how difficult it can be for some parents to provide those things.
"As a parent, I'm shopping for my child," she said. "But as an educator, I am and was shopping for 30 children. ... It's part of being a teacher. You spend money to get what you want and need in your classroom. But even though tax isn't always that much, it's like they say, it adds up."
For a complete list of tax-free items included in this year's sales tax holiday, visit the Mississippi Department of Revenue's website at http://dor.ms.gov.
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