TOPEKA -- A recent bill requiring a $500 annual stipend for teachers to buy supplies was introduced to the House Education Committee during a hearing on Monday.

“Why do teachers have to spend their own money to educate our children?” Rep. Cheryl Helmer (R-Mulvane) said during her introduction of the bill. “Teachers struggle on their salary. We are losing teachers every day because of behavior, societal problems, student debt and better job opportunities. Let’s take this burden away from them.”

House Bill 2233 would affect about 34,700 teachers and was met with strong opposition during the committee meeting. The estimated annual cost of the bill is around $17,350,000 and would come from the 286 school districts across the state instead of the state’s general fund.

On average teachers in the state of Kansas make $50,531 and rank 42nd in teacher salary, according to the 2017 rankings and estimates report from NEA.

“In a small school, where I retired from, it would cost us pretty close to around $40,000,” Jerry Henn, former Wellsville superintendent, said on behalf of the Kansas School Superintendents Association.

The bill stated that stipend money must only be spent on educational materials that are “intended to be fully used within the current school year,” This excludes the purchasing of products intended for multiple-year use as well as any food products.

“This bill provides little support for the innovative and creative teacher,” said Mark Desetti, Director of Legislative and Political Advocacy for the Kansas National Education Association, in his testimony.

The bill also met opposition from the Kansas Association of School Boards and other education-focused entities.

“We would like to file this bill under the category of best intentions,” Desetti said. “Unfortunately, we believe the idea behind this bill needs to be explored more deliberately.”

The committee will vote on HB 2233 on Thursday, Feb. 21.

Grant Heiman is a University of Kansas junior from Wichita majoring in journalism.

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