North Dakota teachers spend $327 of their own money every year on their students, according to a 2011 survey by the National Center for Education Statistics. A bill in the legislature would look into studying how much teachers in the state spend, and how they could get reimbursed.
Sara Medalen knows a lot about the out-of-pocket expenses that come with teaching.
“I have spent roughly $11,000 over my 29 years,” Medalen said.
She’s a reading and math interventionist at Sunnyside Elementary School in Minot, the school with the city’s highest poverty rate. That means she’s often not just buying school supplies to help her students succeed.
“Snow pants, mittens, gloves…” Medalen said.
The list goes on. Medalen says that within the profession, buying snacks for students who might not have had a meal the night before is pretty common among colleagues.
“Especially during the pandemic, we’ve really seen the crucial role that educators play on society, and I really think the funding should reflect that,” Medalen said.
A bill that passed in the House this week would fund a study to look into the out-of-pocket expenses of teachers, and possibly create a reimbursement fund. The president of North Dakota’s teacher union, Nick Archuleta, says a bill to reimburse teachers was introduced in 2019 but failed because of a lack of information on the topic.
“Some administrators spoke to me about the fact that they didn’t even know that teachers were doing this, and they would be happy to make sure that became part of the expense of the district had they known. I hope the entire legislature adopts it, and we can go forward, find out exactly all the information we need to have a decent policy on the books,” Archuleta said.
Archuleta says he thinks the bill has a good chance of passing in the Senate and eventually becoming law.
“I think it’s very important. Teachers are under more stress now than they’ve ever been under. If we want to make sure we have all the teachers we need, we need to make sure they’re supported and they feel supported in the important work that they’re doing,” Archuleta said.
The bill passed the House on Monday by a vote of 63 to 26 and was sponsored by Minot Republican Rep. Matt Ruby.
Medalen was also voted North Dakota’s 2020 teacher of the year.
The bill has not yet been scheduled for a vote in the Senate.