HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) - This week, WHNT NEWS 19 has our homework in hand: an outline of ways teachers can save money as they educate our children.
With budgets so tight, teachers have to dig into their own pockets for classroom supplies and do so willingly because they love their students and they love teaching.
The state of Alabama gives teachers about $300 for supplies for the year, but that doesn't go very far.
So, WHNT NEWS 19 did some research to find places teachers can go to get what they need and save a little money in the process.
First, it's worth noting that the National School Supply and Equipment Association reports educators spend more than $3 billion outfitting their classrooms with everything from disinfectant to educational games. About $1.6 billion of that comes directly out of teachers' pockets.
"I think that is highly unfair," said Wilson McClellan, who owns Schoolcraft in Huntsville. "You can't ask an employee to provide all of his or her own supplies. It's just not right."
Schoolcraft is a supply store on Church Street encourages school Parent-Teacher Associations to help teachers by providing money for supplies. That way, teachers can come in, get what they need and charge it to their school's PTA tax free.
He says about a third of all Huntsville schools are set up to do that.
"It works extremely well," said McClellan. "It's very easy to do and we just bill the PTA for what the teacher gets. She gets the supplies that she needs and it's not out of her own pocket."
For those teachers who are on their own, we found quite a few ideas and websites to help them keep their costs down.
Giftcardgranny.com published a long list of stores giving teachers discounts and discount cards for arts and crafts, office supplies, even necessities to have a pet in the classroom.
They also list all sorts of bookstores that offer discounts on books, magazines, videos, games, and lesson plans.
There are also a slew of sites claiming they offer discounted school supplies, but local merchants say beware of their inflated prices deeply discounted to bring them down to where they should be.
Also, some teacher discount programs have a limited time, like one from containerstore.com. Their program for 2013 ends December 31st.
Teachers also want to look nice, so we did some checking and found at least four clothing stores that offer 15 percent off their merchandise to teachers.