Teachers are unhappy with complexity, costs of system to track spending of Classroom Supply Assistance Program money
BARTOW — The Polk County School District plans to keep using ClassWallet to account for money teachers receive from the state for classroom supplies, but make it friendlier for teachers, who have complained about the online system.
When the district started using ClassWallet this year to account for how money received from the Florida Teachers Classroom Supply Assistance Program — $264 a teacher a year — is spent, teachers complained about shipping and handling charges, items being delivered to wrong addresses and paying $1 per upload for receipts for items purchased outside of the online system.
Before ClassWallet, the district required teachers to turn in receipts for items purchased with the money to a school secretary, but Budget Director Jason Pitts said that process was messy and unreliable.
Despite backlash from teachers who said they want to go back to the old method, Pitts recommended to the School Board this week that the district continue using ClassWallet for the 2017-18 school year.
School Board members are OK with that, but want teachers’ concerns to be addressed.
“We somehow need to reach out to our teachers and ask the question, ‘What are some of the challenges we had?’ and see if we can smooth those out a bit,” School Board member Lynn Wilson said.
The Polk Education Association did just that in December. About 1,400 teachers responded to the survey. The PEA found that:
• Teachers have a difficult time using ClassWallet when it comes to setting up accounts, putting in bank information and being confused about what they are allowed and not allowed to buy.
• Some vendors on ClassWallet charge “excessive amounts” for shipping costs, limiting the money teachers can use on classroom supplies.
• Teachers prefer to buy from local stores and do not want to be charged money to upload receipts.
Pitts said he will work with ClassWallet to address those problems, especially to eliminate the $1 per upload fee. If the fee can’t be eliminated, School Board members asked that the district pay for the receipts to be uploaded. This school year, 3,783 receipts were uploaded by Polk teachers to ClassWallet.
The district pays ClassWallet $5 a teacher — or $27,500 — a year for its online services.
As clear as mud
State statute mandates that teachers spend the money on “classroom materials and supplies for the public school students assigned to them.”
It doesn’t explicitly say what items can and cannot be purchased, but says that the money cannot be used for equipment.
The state requires receipts be kept for four years in case a teacher or school district is audited. The Internal Revenue Service taxes districts for unaccounted money.
Last year, of the 5,500 Polk teachers who qualified for the money, only 1,200 turned in receipts for all of the money they…