update: my boss wanted to go over my personal budget

Remember last week’s letter from a teacher whose boss wanted to go over her personal budget to spot places she could cut in order to buy classroom supplies with her own money? Here’s the update.

I just left a faculty meeting and thought I’d give an update with some discoveries made. Earlier, when my boss was being weird about the supply budget, I talked to someone I knew at the district office who explained that each school did indeed have a budget for classroom supplies to be distributed how each school thought best. So … I emailed my principal asking about that and my friend at the district office apparently asked his superior and apparently another new teacher in the building said something to the district before I even wrote to you. I even like to imagine someone somewhere read the blog. 

There was some back and forth, but the result of the faculty meeting was a notice that we do have funds for classroom supplies beyond the big stuff.

To give further background, this was the result of a long school culture tradition. Many of the teachers in the building have been there forever, and it seems once upon a time it was deemed easier to just buy stuff and receipts were failed to be turned in, eventually evolving into a mindset where supply funds were saved for very big things and teachers covered the rest. With the veteran teachers who were making more, yes, teachers were spending several thousands dollars each year not just on the usual supplies but all sorts of stuff, though the mileage did indeed vary from teacher to teacher.

So, it ended well. We were reminded we were more than welcome to turn in receipts or place orders for the basics and that no one should feel pressured to pay out of pocket. The principal even apologized if she made it seem that way, but the above was what she had been told as “the school’s way” from the prior administration.

Thank you all for your very supportive moral outrage and suggestions.

{ 196 comments… read them below }

  1. Foreign Octopus*

    This is a satisfying resolution, although I’m still a little concerned that the first reaction was to have you bring in your personal budget. At least there’s clarification going forwards. Well done, OP, and thanks for the update.

      1. SamSoo*

        I agree. In her position (the principal) , she should have been asking the question of the board and not making these assumptions.

        1. Blisskrieg*

          Was logging in to say this. Definite win, but holy cow on the initial request to review personal budget.

        2. EddieSherbert*

          Clearly someone is focused on “not rocking the boat” versus doing right by her staff.

          Win for this round, but I would make a mental note that this is not a dependable boss who is looking out for you.

      2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        Yeah—it’s bizarrely invasive. It would have been different if OP’s story were the same, minus the suggestion to go over OP’s personal budget. But the inclusion of that part took it from “bad but understandable” to “wtf?”

      3. Artemesia*

        It is a classic example of how dysfunction gets embedded in a system. The principal didn’t even question this when she was promoted and actually thought bullying a new teacher was appropriate. This principal is not up to a job of this level. Truly shocking. So glad the LW got some clarification, but I’d have my spideysense dialed up to 11 for more nonsense and keep my options option.

    1. Kes*

      Yes. First of all, even if the principal had been told this was how it’s done, she is in the position to effect changes. Secondly, even if she wanted to continue as previously, suggesting she look over OP’s budget is still a huge overstep and completely inappropriate.
      However, I’m glad for OP’s sake that they got a positive resolution to this and don’t have to pay out of pocket.

      1. Life is Good*

        And, principal should have known her suggestion to delve into OP’s PERSONAL finances was overreach. One would think that sort of thing is common knowledge, especially in the mind of someone who is in a position like that. I’m glad you didn’t have to buy supplies for your classroom, but do as others here say and watch out for other stuff that’s not right.

    2. Sleepytime Tea*

      Agreed. I mean honestly, the principal here is really throwing other people (the previous administration) under the bus and acting like they didn’t perpetuate it, when in reality they not only perpetuated but encouraged it. When someone comes to you and says “yeah… I’m not spending thousands of dollars without reimbursement, where’s our budget?” the response, when you do in fact have a budget and you know it, is not to say “well, that’s how it’s done, we can go over your personal budget to help you find some cash though.” THAT’S INSANE.

      If I were a manager/principal/whatever and found out my teachers/staff had been paying for things out of their own pockets when I’m also receiving a budget for those exact same things, I would immediately put a stop to that. Have a meeting, remind them to expense things if they buy them themselves, encourage them to place orders through the school/office, whatever. I wouldn’t stand for having my people give up a part of their hard earned salary WHEN THERE’S EVEN A BUDGET IN PLACE FOR IT ALREADY.

      1. Kat in VA*

        My question is this: I understand that there IS a budget for everyday things. So if that budget is in place, but teachers are encouraged to use their own money to buy those everyday things…where is the money in the Everyday Things Budget going in the first place?

        1. DivineMissL*

          It ends up in Surplus at the end of the year. Like if you had a little extra money and decided to move it into your savings account .

        2. Sleepytime Tea*

          My impression was that they use that budget for larger purchases. So let’s say you get $1k per classroom (I have no idea, just throwing numbers out). If you spend $400 on the basics, you have $600 left, and then you can’t buy the $800 single large item you also want. My sister is a kindergarten teacher and has done fundraisers for her classroom to buy things like one of those circle carpets and a few ipads and things like that. So it sounds like what they were doing was having teacher’s pay for the basics and then they could “afford” those bigger items.

          Still not right. That’s not how a budget works. And it’s particularly stupid to do this in the sense that when you go to set next year’s budget and try to argue for more, as you always do, then it looks like your expenses are lower than they actually are and you’re unlikely to ever end up getting a realistic budget for the things you need.

          1. GreenDoor*

            Came to say the same as Sleepytime Tea. I work for a public school district and here you are not allowed to carry over your surplus to the next school year – it goes to the General Fund and gets redistributed to the 190 schools in our system. Plus, if you have a pattern of being allotted $X but only using $Y, you can bet your budget will be slashed the next time they need to make cuts. So it’s smarter to “use it lest you lose it.”

            Plus, this principal isn’t paying attention to the public perception angle. Most taxpayers would understand if a teacher is fundraising for a new smartboard or special furniture. But imagine seeing a teacher fundraise for chalk and pencils and theme paper. That would just make the school system look terrible to the public!

          2. MatKnifeNinja*

            My niece’s elementary school was like this, and her principal would have done the budget thingy.

            Money left over when to bigger things like playground equipment. Guest speakers. They had a science museum mobile unit come out for two days and all the school went. All that was paid for with the money not spent on pencils and paper. Of course, the parents adored the teachers and school.

            The principal had a spouse who made triple of what she made. Lots of the older veteran teachers had spouses that made much more money than them. So two $2K in supplies wasn’t a WTF.

            There can be a big gap in a school between teachers who are fairly well off financially, and someone who can barely make rent and has $100K in student loans. It is no fun teaching at a school like that.

            1. Artemesia*

              I was a public school teacher 50 years ago when school budgets were more reasonable but even then had to dip into my pocket some. I was a newbie at the lowest pay run putting my husband through law school and some of my peers were married to people who were doctors, lawyers, high level executives etc and had no trouble using their own funds for their classroom. Teachers should never have to pay for school supplies for their classrooms.

              1. Impy*

                It’s the case in a lot of professions. I had a fun conversation once explaining to a colleague that no, I wasn’t being financially abused, I was just the breadwinner of my family, and I didn’t earn much.

            2. Julie*

              My mother worked in a public library, and one year they bought fewer books than usual because there weren’t many new ones that they wanted, so the library used the surplus to expand the parking lot.

      2. Kate R*

        Yeah, I know this is technically a happy update because OP is not having to pay this money out-of-pocket, but I am really not loving the principal’s reaction here. “The principal even apologized if she made it seem that way”…the principal pushed back pretty hard on the OP’s original request telling her it was discretionary funding, that it looked better to the community for teachers to pay out-of-pocket (WTF?), and then offering to go over the OP’s personal budget to see how she could spare thousands of dollars on school supplies when the the school did in fact have a budget for those very things. I’m really questioning her judgement and, if I were a teacher there, it would really have shaken my trust in her to have my back if other issues arose such as a student/teacher or parent/teacher conflict.

        1. Quill*

          Yeah, little things like that can tell you if your principal is the kind of “school image must be maintained” person who, for example, would prevent a teacher from getting health care for an injury, or kidnapping a faculty member so they’ll have to attend a fish fry.

    3. Regular, but anon for this*

      The principal even apologized if she made it seem that way, but the above was what she had been told as “the school’s way” from the prior administration.

      Yes, the principal’s judgement is horrible, and she should never have assumed that this is the way things should be done without verifying with the district office. Even if she’s only ever been in education, where this has been common practice, it’s also a hot-button topic in that field, and so she should have at least known to question it.

      1. Daffy Duck*

        I agree. It is part of a principal’s job fight/find funding for what that particular school needs. The principal needs to be asking those higher up on the ladder for $$$, not the ones below!

      2. JJ Nitmo*

        I personally categorize this as the “bad manager’s apology” you seem sympathetic, but are actually taking no accountability for your own personal failings or the failings of others you couldn’t manage.

    4. Mama Bear*

      Glad for the update as well, but I would still be watching my back because anyone who thinks going through your personal budget vs finding money in the school’s budget is the appropriate response probably has other inappropriate ideas of how to manage the school/teachers.

    5. Kat in VA*

      My reaction nthed. “Sorry if you misunderstood me” is one thing, but it’s pretty impossible to misunderstand “Bring in your personal household budget and we’ll see where I can cut corners for you”.

      1. Engineer Woman*

        Actually it’s “Bring in your personal household budget and we’ll see where I can cut corners for you so you pay for things that Work (the school) should pay for”

        Wow. Just…wow

    6. TootsNYC*

      my reaction as well–it was SO overstepping to ask to see your personal budget and fiddle with it!!!

    7. emmelemm*

      Yeah, I’ll chime in to emphasize “your principal’s judgement is flawed and she does not have your back; be careful around her”.

    8. oP*

      I’m a little frustrated, too, but I’m taking this for a win and see how the rest of her leadership plays out.

      1. Artemesia*

        You also embarrassed her for being incompetent. I’d be looking for lateral moves. You look like principal material to me a few years down the road. Good going.

      2. California Ltd.*

        Hello, OP. I appreciate your cautious optimism, but I’m going to add to the “Watch your back” chorus. You made your principal look bad in front of others and I would be willing to bet she will be out to bring you down.

        Build allies now among other teachers and parents. Document any incident that might cause a parent to go to the principal. And if anything seems off, trust your instincts and don’t dismiss it as an overreaction.

        I’m sorry to be so pessimistic. I hope I’m wrong.

        Good luck!

        1. Elitist Semicolon*

          I would not say OP “made” the principal look bad. The principal made herself look bad by not doing her job competently and by overstepping; all the OP did was find the correct info and ask for clarification. Yes, the principal might interpret that as “you embarrassed me” and then retaliate somehow, but let’s be very careful about to whom we are assigning responsibility for both the principal’s embarrassment and future actions: the principal, NOT the teachers who pushed back.

          1. California Ltd.*

            You are correct. I should have either put that in quotes or said that some other way. Thank you for calling that out.

  2. Toads, Beetles, Bats*

    Huge win, OP. You’re to be congratulated on your handling of this matter. Massive sideeye to the principal re: “I had been told this was the ‘school’s way.'” Okay, maybe someone did tell the principal that, but how on earth does that translate into “so naturally as the person with the most authority in this building I will perpetuate a clearly problematic policy with zero inquiry.”

    1. Working Mom Having It All*

      Right? I often give a side-eye to the idea that, as workers, it is expected that we will constantly be striving to improve processes and change the ways that we do things. Like… honestly things around here mostly work just fine, and if things at your company are so terrible that you’re penalizing people for not developing radical new strategies, that says more about the company than the workers.

      But, like… come on.

      1. CoolCucumber*

        I’ve seen a lot of job ads that list “demonstrated ability to make process improvements” as a requirement and a lot of interviewers have asked me to describe a time I’ve made process improvements. I don’t understand why EVERYONE is expected to be making procedure changes. I’ve only ever done “grunt work,” so I’ve been able to make my personal systems better, but I’ve never been in a position where I could make changes to procedures or policies. I’ve been in situations where I simply asked why or how something was done so I could understand the process better, and people were unhappy. I wouldn’t feel safe making actual suggestions.

    2. Jen S. 2.0*

      This reminds me of that piece floating around about the monkeys training each other that this is how it’s always been done:

      Ah, here we go (pasting):

      Five Monkeys (the following excerpt is taken from “Progress in Primatology” by D. Starek, R. Schneider, and H. Kuhn):

      “They started with a cage containing five monkeys. Inside the cage, they hung a banana on a string with a set of stairs placed under it. Before long, a monkey went to the stairs and started to climb towards the banana. As soon as he started up the stairs, the psychologists sprayed all of the other monkeys with ice cold water. After a while, another monkey made an attempt to obtain the banana. As soon as his foot touched the stairs, all of the other monkeys were sprayed with ice cold water. It wasn’t long before all of the other monkeys would physically prevent any monkey from climbing the stairs.

      Now, the psychologists shut off the cold water, removed one monkey from the cage and replaced it with a new one. The new monkey saw the banana and started to climb the stairs. To his surprise and horror, all of the other monkeys attacked him. After another attempt and attack, he discovered that if he tried to climb the stairs, he would be assaulted.

      Next they removed another of the original five monkeys and replaced it with a new one. The newcomer went to the stairs and was attacked. The previous newcomer took part in the punishment with enthusiasm! Likewise, they replaced a third original monkey with a new one, then a fourth, then the fifth. Every time the newest monkey tried to climb the stairs, he was attacked.

      The new monkeys had no idea why they were not permitted to climb the stairs or why they were beating any monkey that tried. After replacing all the original monkeys, none of the remaining monkeys had ever been sprayed with cold water. Nevertheless, no monkey ever again approached the stairs to try for the banana. Why not? Because as far as they know that’s the way it’s always been around here.”

        1. Emilia Bedelia*

          I mean… we do the same thing with hot stoves, and poisonous mushrooms, and all sorts of other things that we have accidentally discovered are harmful. Who says “Well, I’ve been told all my life that going inside during a lightning storm is just ‘the way we do things’, but let me try standing in this open field, just to be sure.”
          It’s a good idea to question the way things are, in cases like the OP’s, but learning from bad things that have happened in the past is a valuable way to learn in a lot of situations.

          1. juliebulie*

            Sure, but in the examples you describe, you typically have more information at your disposal than those monkeys did. You can observe and understand what hot stoves, poisonous mushrooms, and so forth can do, and you can conduct various tests, talk with friends, and learn how to work around the risk (like using potholders around the stove).

            In other words, we’re not monkeys and we shouldn’t stop learning at the first “ouch.” A hot stove will burn you, but not if you use potholders. (Though you probably don’t really need to touch a hot stove very often.)

            If the subjects in the experiment had been people rather than monkeys, they might have discussed the situation and tested it. For example, the first group of subjects could try to all get on the stairs at the same time; then nobody would get splashed. Or one could stand on another’s shoulders to reach the banana without the stairs, then share the banana.

      1. Coffitivity lover*

        Wow this reminds me so much of the premise of a sci fi novel called “House of Stairs” by William Sleator.

        1. Fiberpunk*

          I loved that dark and twisted book so much when I was a child. I do think it taught me early on that perception of reality is malleable and that people can be horribly manipulated.

          I kind of want to read that now.

      2. Doc in a Box*

        This is a really good parable for medical training. There is a pervasive culture of bullying and harassment because “that’s the way we’ve always done it.” Some fields are worse than others, but every doctor has stories of being mistreated in medical school and training, and then go on to mistreat their own students. The problem is when you spend 10+ years immersed in that culture, it’s really hard to even conceive of a different way of doing things.

    3. Owl*

      That plus my favorite fake apology… “I’m sorry if when I, your boss, said you had to do X, it made it seem like you had to do X.” Eyes rolling so hard.

        1. RUKiddingMe*

          Isn’t it though? I’m really happy OP got this resolution…and so fast, but I’m just SMH at the principal.

    4. RUKiddingMe*

      Also it just naturally follows to “bring in your personal financials so I can find a way for you to spend your own money…”

      1. Sara M*

        Sometimes it really helps to know that you aren’t crazy, that your situation really IS bad. Because when you live it, it changes what you view as “normal.”

  3. Future Homesteader*

    Always happy when the moral outrage can have some positive effect. :-) I just have so much of it! And good on you, OP! Although I absolutely agree with the above commenters than your principal’s judgment in this situation is still highly suspect, and I’d be wary going forward.

  4. Alex*

    Great news! I hope this is a positive thing for the students as well, since their school experience in the classroom should not depend on the relative wealth of their teacher!

  5. Falling Diphthong*

    This is a useful reminder that sometimes the crazy isn’t management being unreasonable–sometimes it’s really dedicated employees arguing about how you show loyalty and support the institution.

      1. sacados*

        That was my thought as well. People go along assuming that “the way things are done” is inviolate and just something you have to suffer through in silence — when sometimes, it turns out that a very simple ask/suggestion can effect change and it’s not a big deal at all.

    1. M. Albertine*

      Also about how when you go above and beyond normal business expectations, the whole organization suffers when they base resource allocation on your sacrifices.

        1. RUKiddingMe*

          Which is why I decided a long time ago that achieving the mediocre was the way to go. ^_^

    2. Legal Beagle*

      Such a good point. Coupled with the “I had to suffer under this terrible policy, so you should, too!” arguments for not improving bad situations.

      1. Kat in VA*

        THIS. Especially in a workplace that has flexible worktime and/or “core hours”..

        “Well, *I* never work a ten hour day one day and then only a six hour day sometime after that!! I just donate my time to the company!”

        Well, that’s all fine and good, Becky, but I have a late doctor’s appointment and I pull way more ten hours days then six hour ones? And the bosses don’t care, so why do you?

        1. RUKiddingMe*

          “…donate my time to the company!”

          Ahaha…yeah, nope. I barely donate my time to my own company, much less someone else’s. You may notice I am not a “team player.” Which…is why I don’t “do” corporate well and have had to own/operate/run my own gig …gosh… for about 30 years now.

    3. Owl*

      I think it’s an “and” not an “or” in this case. Her boss asked to comb through her personal budget to find money she could spend to improve her place of employment. That is so far beyond reasonable.

    4. TitleOneESL*

      That’s pretty much education in a nutshell. Suffering the most for your job is how you demonstrate your value.

  6. Lizabeth*

    Why did the principal accept the prior administrations’ word about how it was done rather than look into how it suppose to be?

    1. Sir Peeves*

      I assume as an adminstrator she has access to the budget? I don’t buy this line of “they told me this is how it’s done!”, teachers aren’t the only ones doing work during Summer recess to facilitate handover. I bet someine was looking for
      a slush fund.

      1. Ama*

        Not necessarily a slush fund, but in a lot of districts the principal will get lauded for coming in under budget, so if she could discourage teachers from ever using the supply budget, her overall bottom line will look that much better.

        1. Kat in VA*

          Or said slush fund is being spent on the principal’s pet projects* and not being used what it’s intended for…a fund to pick up the slack when the regular budget doesn’t cover.

          *or, god forbid, personal projects, personal money, personal charges. That happens, too.

          1. wittyrepartee*

            But giving the benefit of the doubt- it could be new computers for the computer lab or the latest smartboards. Which is great, if you aren’t squeezing your employees for chalk money.

            1. Bears Beets Battlestar*

              Lots of schools do this, unfortunately. A new STEM lab looks good in the papers and to visitors, but you don’t show off the stacks of copy paper you bought. They let the teachers buy the paper so they can get credit for the flashy stuff.
              The school where I teach is not like this, thankfully!

      2. bonkerballs*

        Just a heads up from someone who works in accounting, an administrator having access to the budget does not in any way guarantee said administrator can either read or understand the budget.

        1. Seifer*

          Yep. My job is to live and breathe the budget (but I don’t work in accounting). One time, one of my coworkers got a glimpse of something that someone left sitting out and came up to me demanding to know why we pay ‘that asshole project manager’ $900K a year. Okay, first of all, rude. Second of all, you are so far off base that I need a powerpoint to tell you how wrong you are.

    2. hbc*

      In my workplace, I learned a bunch of things that seemed really weird in the first six months. I’d have done nothing else if I had to research them all, and blown through my capital if I acted like every statement of fact had to be verified. In hindsight, it’s probably easy to see which ones should be challenged, but when you’re at the drinking-from-the-firehouse stage, you’re just trying to hang on.

      I mean, I hope I would have called this for the ridiculousness that it was, but if I’d just been told a bunch of other crazy stuff, I might have been too busy arranging for an electrician to put GFCI in the bathrooms or something.

      1. Blue*

        Yeah, that’s my most generous interpretation, as well. Like, “Everybody seems fine with this and I have way more pressing things so I’m not going to look into this right now” – and maybe even eventually buying into that mindset. But I am extremely curious about what they have been using these budgetary funds for. I rather doubt they were just sitting unused.

    3. Phony Genius*

      Sounds like it may be a classic “make the younger employees pay their dues like we had to” situation. Some people have a notion that treating employees equally means that it should be measured based on how the veterans were treated when they were younger. The principal may have been afraid of this (at least until the faculty meeting).

      1. RUKiddingMe*

        The paying their dues thing occurred me as well. I mean I had to deal with X, Y, and Z…everyone else should have to as well. We wouldn’t want to, oh I don’t know, fix a screwed up system/practice or anything.”

    4. Artemesia*

      Oh but I think she actually showed gumption and got creative with process improvement. I’ll bet the outgoing administration didn’t tell her to micromanage the personal budgets of her staff. I think that is her own creative initiative.

    5. Mel (Cow Whisperer)*

      If I were the LW, I’d keep a close eye on how the principal runs things at the school and go to a lot of board meetings to see how the board/superintendent interact with the principal.

      At my first teaching job, my principal was committing fraud to the tune of a few million dollars a year by telling the state we had 600 full -time traditional aged high school students (which earned a school around $8,000 per year) when we had around 125 kids in that program plus another 150-200 adults (which earned a school around $500 a year). In addition to counting all of the part-time adults as full-time teenagers (with fake schedules to match), he kept a bunch of students who had been dropped for non-attendance, moved out of district, or graduated on the books for multiple years.

      I’d love to tell you that this was all discovered by the superintendent and Board who really should have noticed the discrepancy since they could to all of the program sites located in five different buildings (which was a good touch; each program felt their program was really small for the amount of funding available, but was told that the other buildings were busier and making up the difference) – but it all came crashing down because the principal asked a 19 year old secretary to forge a bunch of teacher signatures on the fake attendance books.

      He eventually took a plea – but the hardest bit was proving that his fraud was his fault. See, he trained the first group of teachers to take attendance in a way that made fraud really easy – we marked the kids present or absent in pencil before signing in ink which makes me cringe with embarrassment in hindsight – but didn’t commit fraud on any of their classes. He waited until the program grew a bit and hired fresh out of college teachers – easy enough to do at an urban alternative-ed high school – and had the experienced teachers train them how to do attendance.

      I wasn’t called to testify, but I was more than willing to. (I’m a lefty with that peculiar left-handed slant plus mild cerebral palsy means my “p’s” are large and angular. The falsified attendance sheets had perfectly formed right slanted petite round “p” that I couldn’t make to save my life.) I landed on my feet; I got another teaching job in the next district over. A lot of my colleagues weren’t so lucky when a program that had nearly 30 teachers was cut to 2 teachers. Worst of all was the pain caused to our students. Many of our students were already in foster care and we spent a lot of time building positive relationships – only to have to tell the kids that we were going to have to leave them.

      So, yeah, LW, – hopefully I’m overreacting because of my experiences – but keep your eyes open, ok?

  7. EPLawyer*

    “We’ve always done it this way” is some of the worst reasoning ever. No one questions it, so insane things get perpetrated. Until finally someone says “WHY???????” then everyone goes “Well, umm, you know, maybe there is a better way to do this.”

    Hurray for having a budget. One thing we really really really really need to not do is expect teachers to subsidize their classrooms out of their own pockets. (my little sister, my sister in law and my niece are all teachers).

    1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      “It’s always been done that way” drives me insane.

      If we don’t evolve and challenge how things have “always been done”, then we’d you know, still be in the dark ages ffs!

    2. oP*

      I was just reading a local piece about an eveny giving out school supplies for refugee students. It was a charming, feel-good article until someone pointed out in the comments “why can’t the school just supply the tissues?!”

      It does depress me so much is put on teachers and families.

      1. RUKiddingMe*

        While I am fully 1000000% on board giving stuff to refugee kids, I hope they realize there are thousands of non-refugee kids that don’t have school supplies either.

      2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        Hopefully you’re not the only one who will start bucking the system and taking this up the food chain to get addressed, so that the world won’t have to operate under the impression that schools just “don’t have the funds”. That’s part of the problem here. These people put on these events because of the falsehoods we’ve learned about the school system crisis.

        I’m actually seething with your update on that level because it takes advantage of the teachers, families and communities that think they’re helping out the kids…when really the schools are sitting on money secretly in some cases.

  8. GlassShark*

    “I’m sorry if you were silly enough to think that my butting-in to your personal finances was taken by you as a sign that I was somehow trying to butt-in to your personal finances”. Classic non-apology. I’m happy this worked out for you, OP, but I’d still be cautious with that principal…

    1. Emac*

      Seriously. Principal apologized *if* she made it seem like teachers had to pay for basic supplies? How exactly could OP construe the principal’s suggestion of bringing in her personal budget as anything else?

      1. RUKiddingMe*

        Particularly if I recall the letter correctly (OP?) didn’t she say specifically that she would help her look at her budget so she could find the money to pay for supplies. There’s no “if,” no great area. SMFH

    2. Magda*

      Yes, that was some shameless BS. The principal should have taken responsibility and apologized sincerely. I would not trust this person going forward.

    3. oP*

      Oh, I am. She seems otherwise nice, but this will be a year where I will likely do my job and then give her attention the bare minimum.

      1. RUKiddingMe*

        Good. Keep an eye on your back and watch her for concealed knives. She seems rather …duplicitous…maybe, yeah Le’s go with duplicitous.

  9. Working Mom Having It All*

    As someone who processes expenses as a matter of course, and who has done this since literally my first day at my first ever post-college job, I cannot IMAGINE an entire workplace spending thousands of dollars of personal money on needed supplies just because the process of submitting receipts is “hard”. For chrissakes.

    I’ll occasionally buy the nice pens I like or a fun notepad with my own money, because it’s just not worth trying to expense it (especially since the company provides regular pens and plain notepads, so the expense could be declined). But that’s probably under $20 a year.

    THOUSANDS OF DOLLARS. THOUSANDS. PAID BY TEACHERS. I cannot with this. Like. At all.

    1. banzo_bean*

      Yeah, I think this is actually pretty common in with teachers, and unfortunately, most of the time it’s not even because the process of expensing is hard, it’s because it’s expected of teachers. My sister teaches third grade and has to buy ALL of the paper for her class room.

      1. Snark*

        A lot of it is the fact that school districts are chronically underfunded, for a variety of reasons from voter demographics to toxic ideological convictions to local laws, which is exacerbated by the practice of tying school funding to property taxes. So there may not actually be money for paper for her classroom, as insane as that is, and no plans to make funds for same available.

        1. animaniactoo*

          In the setup that my sister and several friends are in (and parents have recently retired from), teachers get a “discretionary” budget to spend on supplies. It’s about $200 a semester. They can choose to spend it on stuff like paper for the perpetually out of stock copy machine, or they can choose to pool it to get a new projector for the department so that there is more than one working projector which blinks out half the time anyway.

          Yeah, all the teachers end up spending personal funding on additional supplies/doing fundraisers for them/etc.

        2. doreen*

          Maybe it’s because I live in a city school district (by which I mean the city I live in operates and funds t’s own schools, there is no separate school board) but I’m not sure what tying school funding to property taxes has to do with anything- whether it’s property, income or sales tax, school districts are going to get their funding through some kind of tax.

          1. critter*

            It’s not that they’re tied to property taxes generally, it’s that often, school districts only receive money collected from their specific district. So, places where the median income is fairly high and people pay high property taxes, the schools are funded well enough. But places where income is lower, their homes are worth less and thus they pay less in taxes… which means less money going to the schools who actually could use more money.

      2. Working Mom Having It All*

        When it’s expected of teachers because the money genuinely isn’t there, or it’s an underfunded district where that money is needed for other things, sure.

        But to find out that there’s a budget for this, and there’s a procedure for expensing supplies, and every other school is doing that… but they’re not because years ago someone decided it was less convenient than just paying out of pocket…. boggles the damn mind.

        1. MissDisplaced*

          It boggles my mind too. It’s one thing to say that you’ll get a budget of $250 but if you run out, you might need to spend, say $150-$200 midway through the school year. Sucks, but probably manageable if it’s spending $25-$50 at a time.
          But THOUSANDS of dollars? As in there goes your vacation money, rent money and healthcare money because boss is gonna cut your personal budget to find that money. Yikes! and No, I don’t think so.

          And thank God for Dollar Tree, right? $50 goes a long way there and they have a teacher program.

        2. Anon Librarian*

          My first job out of grad school and I asked about black cardstock. We were out, so I offered to go to the craft store down the street and get some. I did and then I asked about being reimbursed. I was told I could go up to the deans office IF I really wanted too and ask about it. It was clear the person I worked for thought I shouldn’t do it. I was so nervous about going to speak to the Dean that I just ate the 15 dollar expense. Years later, I realized the Dean would have been appalled if she’d known that had happened. The previous Dean, apparently, wouldn’t reimburse people or made people feel really bad about asking, so older/long term employees just ate the expenses. It was a fascinating lesson in learned behavior.

    2. Detective Amy Santiago*

      Yeah, I bought myself fancy file folders for my desk because I want to look at something pretty and not plain manila, but my employer provides the basics!

    3. RJ the Newbie*

      I work in project accounting and have for many, many years and agree wholeheartedly with you. The principal’s logic in this situation is impossible for me to process. It makes me feel so bad for the many, many dedicated teachers who I know are living this same situations.

    4. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      It’s not just teachers. I’ve seen regular old for-profit, privately owned business, employees decide it’s simply not worth their time to plug in numbers on an expense report. Or putting in for their mileage reimbursements when they’re attending a class or seminar, etc.

      I even put the mileage expense report with their coursework when they’re going somewhere. And say “Don’t forget to jot down your mileage info so I can get you the reimbursement for it!” Some of these are upwards of $30 for there and back mileage but nope, couldn’t possibly find the energy to write down the to-from address and odometer information. Easiest money ever and nah, not worth it cuz paperwork. So when someone is going to a class every few months, it adds up.

      1. Paulina*

        On the other hand, I’ve seen reimbursement procedures (in academia) that seem designed to make it as difficult as possible to get paid back. Including having to prove that we took the cheapest possible fare, prove that we got on the plane and went to the conference, prove that lunch was not provided… and submitted within 2 weeks. On a special form that doesn’t work on all computer systems (including mine). At least nobody’s scrutinizing our food choices, but the hoops pile up as if they’re trying to dissuade us from getting our money, even though the charges are to allocations specifically earmarked for our individual expenses.

        1. Artemesia*

          My favorite was when I turned in a McDonald’s receipt for lunch — it was maybe $8.50. I got it back that I had to have an itemized receipt to prove I hadn’t spent any money on alcohol.

            1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

              I’ve heard of so many people in these positions having their hands tied up so tight that they can’t make calls on this stuff. We know that it’s McDonald’s we know what McDonald’s sells, we know that 8.50 is a value meal cost. But yeah, it’s not ON THE RECEIPT! so their policy makers say “Never assume, ever assume, never use your judgement, we don’t allow for your judgement calls here!” So yeah, they have to toss this back at the people saying “this isn’t an acceptable receipt, bro, you may have stopped by the McDonald’s branded liquor store that may or may not exist and got taaaaaaaaanked on 8.50 of fortified wine!”

              1. wittyrepartee*

                I work in government, and I always feel vaguely offended that they think that I’m going to get wasted on the food budget. Like- I get $30 for dinner. Do you think I’m spending it on three beers? And if I did- isn’t that kind of my own problem assuming the work day is done?

                1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

                  You’re treated like a child with a lot of their rules and regs, so honestly, I don’t blame you a bit. This kind of stuff is one of the million reasons why I’m a stickler for my private business and small business life. I make rules, I treat people with as much dignity as trust as humanly possible.

                  We give a per diem for travel meals and incidentals. Take that $30 and fly free, sweet bird! I don’t care if you pocket it, buy a steak or get those 3 beers.

          1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

            I’ve shared this before I”m sure. But I used to work for a minute doing books for a restaurant. They allowed the local university to have an account with them, where we would then bill out the lunch/dinner events they hosted. We had to break out the alcohol from the food in our billing, since there are some departments/funds set up that are A-OK with booze and some that will toss a bill if it includes it. Yet many people at the dinners wouldn’t know one way or another and since they weren’t paying out of pocket, they just took a shot in the dark that it would be covered…

            I had to write off so much loss because of the times that we’d get completely refused payment due to the fact that we dared to charge them for the alcohol their staff had ordered.

        2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

          This is sicking and yet I’m truly unsurprising that this is the case [I actually had an inkling this was a thing, that procedures are put in place to really discourage expense reporting and reimbursements, which is also why when I come aboard any ship, I start making things as easy and clear as possible.]

          I know y’all have a lot of hoops in academia, especially if you’re state ran. So they have to go to the extremes to verify the staff isn’t secretly all flying first class to every conference and ordering all those expensive bottles of champagne. [I’m rolling my eyes even saying this stuff since it’s so extreme but I know that the government has to take extreme precautions against you know, crazy antics that once in a long while do pop up from time to time if you don’t watch out close enough but still, it punishes the majority who are non-criminals among us more so than anything which I’m never behind. Ever.]

          Which again, my private citizen, private business self appreciates everyone who is publicly funded and will just seethe in your honor since you know, I can’t fix it since it’s impossible to ever retool that broke-AF-system you’re tangled in.

        3. Brett*

          Ugh, the forms.
          I had to do written travel requests in sextuplicate, and then get all six copies signed off by four levels. The number of times I got back the forms in interoffice mail and found that one of the sign offs did not press hard enough and the bottom two forms were not signed….
          Add in the required alternatives list for travel and lodging, and my travel packages was normally 30+ pages by the time it was ready for full approval and booking.
          And that conference badge might as well have been made of platinum. If you failed to turn that in with your reimbursement forms, everything would get denied.

    5. Brett*

      You might be surprised at how difficult the process can be in the public sector, where the chokepoint might be an elected official or head appointee who has no accountability to rank and file employees. At old job, the chief executive (who did not like our department head) would make the department head do a verbal presentation to justify every reimbursement which required the exec’s signature if it went to an employee in our department. He would then lecture the department head on what a waste of tax dollars the expenditures were, and reject 90%+ of them. Employees in the department stopped submitting requests to stop putting the department head through this.

      1. wittyrepartee*

        Oh, we got told we’re not allowed to attend conferences we’re not presenting at. Because apparently the only reason to go to a conference is to show off.

    6. Amcb13*

      When I taught in NYC teachers got individual funds from the district to pay for supplies. The amount was so low as to be insulting and it decreased every year that I was there (from something like 125 to 110 to 85, maybe). I had to go through my Staples receipt in September and highlight the items that most closely added up to the total (because lol at the idea of spending less than $200 on my first Staples run of the year) and turn that in for the funding. I can see that becoming demoralizing to the point of blowing it off, though I always turned mine in to show that the program was needed, just with much greater funding. The money itself funded maybe my first two weeks of expenses so it didn’t feel like a useful amount. (Also, I forget if we had to log on to the city’s teacher HR portal for that, but that website CLOSED AT 4 PM so it was difficult to use. This was 2009-2012. The website CLOSED after business hours.)

      1. animaniactoo*

        As of about 4 years ago it was up to $250/semester. Not sure what it is today, but I could find out if you’re interested.

  10. Bend & Snap*

    Hell yes I remember this letter. LOL.

    Glad it was a good resolution but the actions in the first letter are still unacceptable. I’m glad everyone seems to have come to their senses.

  11. irene adler*

    This is a good outcome.

    I still don’t care for the boss suggesting that she go over the OP’s personal budget to find the funds to pay for supplies.

    1. Adlib*

      Yes, I want to know why the default was “Let’s go over your personal budget”. To me, that’s just such a weird and huge leap to make if someone tells you they can’t afford it.

      1. wittyrepartee*

        Yeah. You’re not taking away my coffee money or whatever in order to buy pencils that you can afford lady…

  12. CoffeeforLife*

    So, if there was actually a budget for normal classroom supplies which teachers weren’t utilizing, where did that money go? Was it all spent on the big ticket items? Was there a surplus? Will there not be enough now that both small and large purchases will be reimbursed?

    1. RabbitRabbit*

      I wonder if they’ve been avoiding doing usual big-ticket budget requesting methods and falling back on the general supply budget instead, as part of this whole ‘it’s too much effort to do that’ inertia.

    2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      Most likely the forever-“rainy day” fund. You know, until right now, when a teacher finally demands that the school pay for the supplies their GD selves.

    3. Working Mom Having It All*

      My guess based on personal cynicism is that there was a surplus, and the principal was patting herself on the back for doing such a great job coming in many thousands of dollars under budget every year.

      1. LITJess*

        Which is insane to me as I work in local government. If you are regularly turning in a budget surplus at the end of the year, your budget in the new fiscal year is going to be cut and that money will be sent to a department that will spend it. How is this principle retaining her funding? Or is she doing a year-end spend-a-thon on things she should have been buying all year??

  13. Yvette*

    OP, OK, “The principal even apologized if she made it seem that way, but the above was what she had been told as “the school’s way” from the prior administration.” But did she or anyone else acknowledge the fact that asking you to bring in your personal budget for them to go over was ridiculously far over the line?

  14. Enough*

    I admit I was waiting for ‘there is going to be an audit to see where the money has gone.’ You would think that some one in the administration would have questioned the school’s spending in the past if it was out of line with the rest of the district.

    1. A Simple Narwhal*

      I was hoping for that too!

      …And secretly the popcorn eating side of me was hoping it would turn out that the principal was discouraging teachers from using the budget and then pocketing the leftovers and the OP’s inquiries would blow open a hold scandalous fraud scheme! (I don’t actually want that to have been the case, school’s are struggling enough as is, but it would have made for quite the exciting update.)

      1. MaxiesMommy*

        Yes, you hope that the district thinks they should keep an eye on this principal. And an audit of past years would be nice.

    2. oP*

      I don’t know if there was much to audit. It sounds like it was being used, but for big things the teachers finally didn’t want to pay for. iPads, Chromebooks, etc.

      The mentality was that pencils don’t cost much but computers do.

      1. Enough*

        I understand that but it should set up a flag when one school is buying laptops that are typical part of the capital budget and not buying construction paper that would be expected to come out of this budget line.

  15. Aurion*

    I work in procurement and the original question damn near made me sprain my eyebrows, they shot so high so fast.

    HUGE side-eye to the principal, I call so much BS on that. Even if the school has always done it this way, what the hell was happening to the money earmarked for school supplies? Clearly they were going somewhere, and she damn well knew where. She knows there’s a fund for this, and she’s watching as her teachers spent thousands a year on school supplies, and she dare had the gall to tell a new teacher “let’s go over your personal budget so you can continue to drop thousands a year on school supplies when I know we have the money for it!”

    I hope your contacts at the district is similarly side-eyeing this principal, OP. I wouldn’t be surprised at all if her judgement erred in other respects.

    1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      I agree. The principal is playing it up and playing ignorant.

      However I know that it’s also a way to save face and since she tucked her tail under and gave in when called out properly, I just wouldn’t trust this woman much at all going forward.

    2. Scout Finch*


      Would not be surprised if the funds were going to the principal’s pocket (or pet project/employee/…).

      1. Madge*

        Eh, maybe, but I think it’s more likely it made up for overages in other departments or was used for those things that are more crucial to a quality education that it might appear to the school board and voters. Public education is pretty bare bones in many districts. The principal may have a harder time balancing the budget this year compared to past years. And she’s not cool for balancing her budget on the backs of teachers who are already underpaid.

  16. Utoh!*

    Yeah, sometimes the “old ways” need to be questioned especially if they aren’t truly policies but just what the former and veteran employees are used to and what administration just goes along with because it’s saving the school money. I pay taxes that go to schools, I’m sure for this purpose among others, so if it’s not going to the school supplies, where is it going?

  17. animaniactoo*

    What a great outcome. However, I’m going to give massive side-eye to “receipts were failed to be turned in”.

    Really? SEVERAL teachers just forgot to submit their receipts? Yeah, no. The failure to submit receipts in such a systemic way is extremely likely to have been because they were being encouraged from the get-go not to submit those receipts. Either by verbal/social pressure, or by making the process so difficult that the $20-$50 here and there didn’t seem like it was worth the effort.

    This evolution did not happen by accident, and I hope the reset holds and the longer-term teachers with larger salaries have been entrenched in the mindset that it was theirs to pay for go with it. It would be the next level evolution of the problem if they hold back and create an us/them between newer and older teachers. At this point, you can pretty much guarantee that your principal would not be useful in solving that problem.

    1. Bibliovore*

      or was the reimbursement process so onerous and delayed that the teachers just gave up. Ask me how I know.

      1. animaniactoo*

        Yeah, that’s what I mean by making the process so difficult that it made it seem like it was more trouble than it was worth. You’d have to start billing for the amount of time you spent “correctly submitting” (and resubmitting and resubmitting) and chasing down your reimbursement for it to become worthwhile.

      2. bonkerballs*

        On the flip side, I work in accounting and our process is literally “hand me your receipts and I will reconcile your individual company credit card” and it is like pulling teeth to get people to turn them in. For some people, remembering to keep a receipt and hand it to someone else is too much of a burden.

  18. The Man, Becky Lynch*

    I hear stories about people who find doing expense reports and turning in receipts to be pure and utter torture, I now have witnessed it with this post and wowzah! I’m glad it’s all sorted out and things are now able to shift back to normalcy of the school paying for supplies that they should have done all along.

    Now I kind of want to just start dropping into schools and doing this for teachers myself. Gimme all those receipts, I’ll get your money back ffs.

    1. Clorinda*

      My school gives each teacher $250 and we have to turn in receipts that total at or over $250. It’s not hard. What’s hard is running out of pens and paper in January and having to spend my own money.
      Not thousands, though. $100 at most. Thousands???? Plural? I’ve got a kid in college. I’m already subsidizing an education. Get away from me with this thousands nonsense.

      1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        I’ve seen a lot of people struggle to even turn in receipts. It’s bizarre to me but I’m also an accountant by trade so I’m like “It’s a slip of paper, you hands it to me and I hands you back the money, how did that ever get complicated?!”

        Granted people have to deal with Guacamole Bob’s of the world and therefore yeah, they shudder to just to have to approach accounting or whomever is reimbursing them. Which is another reason why my mission when I come back as a super hero is to take out these people, they are my one true enemy.

        1. Ama*

          Not an accountant, but processing expense reports used to be a regular part of my job and yeah, it always mystified the lengths people would go to to try and get out of turning in their expenses. I had someone once bring me all their receipts as a loose bundle, each one with a torn piece of notebook paper with what the expense was for scrawled on it. And as I handed it back to him, I kept thinking “how is what you did less work than writing those same notes on the expense form in the first place and taping the receipts to a piece of scrap paper?”

          1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

            Yeah, sadly a lot of people are like this, even business owners! I’ve made a career out of dealing with notes scrawled on the back of things or sticky notes that miraculously stay attached to where they need to be as the expense.

            Lots of people are not organized and are awful with paperwork =(

        2. Alternative Person*

          I always chase that kind of stuff down.

          I get horrified when people don’t because they’re screwing themselves out of cash. I got shorted by quite a bit after turning in some travel expenses a while back and spent two pay periods chasing it down and suggested to my co-workers they check to make sure they got theirs. Turns out they didn’t (and don’t) even check their (digital) pay slips. That’s perfectly good money they’re throwing away.

          1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

            The majority of people don’t read their check stubs. No joke.

            They just assume everything is okay unless something is majorly off like being shorted a ton of hours or a huge reimbursement. But yeah, I’ve found errors on my own through internal review and had to go back and fix it because that’s not going to just slip by once it’s caught. Other companies and processors would just be all “oops” and keep going.

            I’m also not mad when people do catch an error and bring it to my attention. I had one person train me saying “oh and if you ever make a mistake they won’t let you live it down, yadda yadda story time.” and I’m like “Yeah I wouldn’t let myself live it down either, so I’m fine if Gerald always double checks his paycheck and asks for receipts every payday because dude, you messed up his paycheck once and then acted put out…so.”

        3. bonkerballs*

          So much this! There are some comments above wondering about how onerous the process the must be, but I’m over here like nah man. For some reason, the second money gets involved some of the most competent, intelligent people just become clueless banana crackers.

          1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

            A lot of it is because unless it’s a real chunk of change [and it’s a chunk that registers to them], they just don’t want to be bothered.

            Everyone values their time differently and so it may not be “worth it” for anything less than say $100 or even $500. I’ve seen tons of people shrug off their travel reimbursements to the tune of hundreds of bucks. “Hey didn’t you take an Uber to the airport? Where are your receipts so I can get you paid back?” “Yeah I’ll do it one day…” and then I pester a few more times before it either happens or it gets dropped if they’re absolutely against forwarding me the GD receipts! So in that case it’s like $30 so they’re not bothered.

            This is also why I prefer to have company accounts or company cards whenever humanly possible to take the “person” out of it and just everything goes to me and I can figure it out. But in some cases, if someone only has one event a year that they need to Uber to and from, then they use their own account and all that. Or like we reimburse people when they drive to a company party and have to pay for parking but yeah, only a couple people claim their $15.

            If I can get reimbursed for a $5 taco tueseday lunch special for a company lunch, I’m putting in that paperwork and getting my $5! And I make more than most of the people who refuse to do the leg work for their much more reimbursements, no joke. So there’s that.

        4. Yup*

          Ugh. OldJob’s accounting dept hated us. We used the job costing method of accounting (apologies if that’s not what that’s called) where everything had to go into specific buckets, including items people expensed via their expense report.

          Things were always in the wrong bucket and I had to fill out tedious forms to get things moved from Bucket A to Bucket B. Accounting was in charge of moving it all. Of course, every time there is a move, there’s also a line in the finance documents showing the movement of $, making the financial documents longer than they actually are.

          1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

            I have no patience or sympathy for accounting departments who are involved because they are the ones who truly understand the point of the process, so they need to just stop acting put out or frustrated by non-accounting folks doing things “wrong”.

            Things that are easy to us are hard to others, this is why we have job security, not just anyone can slide on into the seat and figure out how to track expenses and the money flowing steadily through the entity!

            Say your job is building spaceships. You gonna get mad when I can’t just jump on in there and build a frigging spaceship with some “printed instructions”? I think not. So yeah, I grate my teeth when accounting departments hate their own people because they can’t just “get it right” and do the forms to the utmost perfection each time.

            I also get locked into battles with vendor/client accounting departments over some pretty spectacular things and mess ups of their own. So yeah, don’t let any accounting department ever make you feel bad about making them do their jobs, even if it’s the long or hard way.

            1. Yup*

              That was the whole problem – an entire team was in charge of bucketing expenses into the budget. The “team” didn’t have an accounting background and some of the buckets were very nuanced/specific and if you aren’t careful, things can easily be added to the wrong bucket. For example, airfare travel for office staff was in one bucket whereas if a remote employee took a flight somewhere, it was in another bucket.

              The manager also wasn’t very good at explaining things. I remember having to ask “so how is this bucket for travel different than down here where it also says travel?”

              There were also 4 layers of approvals to go through and some people signed their names or asked inane things like “how come this costs so much?” rather than actually catching mistakes before it goes to accounting.

              1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

                Coding expenses is extremely complex, I can’t imagine having random department folks totally understanding the sub-accounts like that.

                I’m sure it was so detailed, remote vs in house employees vs contractors because they have different values. Like billable hours done by a paralegal vs attorney. Jfc duh it’s gonna get mixed up by those who don’t do it every day all day. Ick.

      2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        Also I’m not sure I’m fully aware of the system they have going on here. Do they give you $250 in petty cash and then you have to give receipts to account for it? Or are they saying that you can be reimbursed up to $250, so you have to first spend your own money and then turn in receipts?

        Lots of people don’t find it “worth their time” to get reimbursed if you’re spending this kind of money in chunks of say $20 here and $15 there. But it adds up.

        1. Clorinda*

          They give me a check, which I cash or deposit. I then buy stuff and keep all the receipts in an envelope. When it’s over $250, I hand it in to the person whose job it is to take the envelope. The only even slightly tricky part is that every single thing on the receipt has to be for my classroom, so if I run to WalMart to buy 100 spiral notebooks, a gallon of hand sanitizer, and six dozen mechanical pencils for my room, and I also pick up a bag of cat litter and a chocolate bar, I have to be sure to pay for the cat litter and chocolate separately so they don’t show up on the school receipt.
          Otherwise, I don’t even have to break my purchases down by category or anything. It’s just an envelope of receipts.

          1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

            This system isn’t so bad at least!

            I mean I have to do separate transactions too at times and I have a company card, so I don’t see that as much of a hiccup in the system. I run to the market to get snacks for a meeting for example but I want to grab a soda for myself, yeah I have to do it in two transactions. Most companies are set up to do this without any real issues so unless the line is forever and cashier is not very good at navigating their computer system, then it doesn’t take much more time extra at least.

    2. Working Mom Having It All*

      Right? As a career admin who does other people’s expenses all day, I should probably write down that, when my kid is school aged, I will go to the school and ask if they need help with this sort of thing.

  19. CG*

    I’m a little miffed on your behalf at the gaslighting from your boss! She “apologized if she made it seem that way”?! She offered to go over your household budget for you expressly for the purpose of helping you find money to pay out-of-pocket for school supplies, and then she responded to this resolution with a “sorry if you felt that way (but I did nothing wrong)” kind of response. Booooo.

    1. EddieSherbert*

      My reaction to that line:

      *SNORT* Huh. IFFFFFFF she made it SEEMMMMM that way?! REALLY?! *eye roll*

  20. Utoh!*

    I just re-read the initial post and something really stuck out to me,

    “I asked if I did have a budget and was told it was “more of a discretionary fund and it looked better to the community if the teachers pitched in more.” Further talk revealed this pitching in was to the tune of several thousand dollars per teacher.”

    After being told this, and then when it all came to light this was NOT the case, the apology from the principal felt very hollow to me.

    1. Poppy*

      Yes. My immediate reaction was, “Where is the money from the discretionary fund going?” A proper audit might be a good idea.

  21. ErinFromAccounting*

    I’m still suspicious of the principal. She apologized for ‘making it seem that way’, but she was explicit that you were expected to pay for classroom supplies to the point of offering to look at your personal budget to help make that happen… fishy fishy fishy.

    BUT! I’m glad the issue has been resolved and LW doesn’t have to spend her own money, so it still counts as a win.

  22. Sharkey*

    I love the phrase “supportive moral outrage” – that feels like one of the main things you can find here on AAM! ;D

    OP, I’m so glad to hear that everything worked out! As an ex-teacher myself, I know how rough this stuff can be, so this is great to hear!

  23. Robbenmel*

    One good thing that came of this: my husband and I started asking our teacher friends what they NEEDED, and it was eye-opening. Teachers buying their own stuff to the tune of hundreds of dollars is NOT OKAY, but now that we know it’s a problem, we’re going to help where we can. We haven’t had kids in school for a very long time, and I just bought a bunch of stuff for our one grandchild’s homeschool classroom, but I am going shopping again this weekend.

    1. Artemesia*

      At my grandchild’s school parents are expected to kick in big bucks each year to finance these things (the kids also have a huge supplies list — including wipes and tissues and such for the classroom for the year). Teach family is expected to contribute around $1000 (obviously not all can and some have more than one kids, as far as I know there isn’t aggressive dunning of those who can’t or don’t pay) This is what gives teachers a discretionary fund for their classrooms and also funds things like field trips. Public schools are grossly underfunded and one sad effect of this is that schools in poorer neighborhoods struggle more to provide for their students since parents are not able to kick in this kind of money.

  24. Kimmybear*

    “she had been told as “the school’s way” from the prior administration”

    I agree with everyone who has said that the principal should have known better than to perpetuate a bad policy. I also feel like the principal may be one that lets the long-time teachers at the school actually run the show. That’s an even bigger red flag as it’s indicative of a larger culture and management issue.

  25. MissDisplaced*

    Oh my gosh! So glad for you and that you don’t have your manager digging though your personal finances.

  26. Dave H*

    I’m glad this ended better than the original post would have led us to believe. However, it’s still a huge problem with teachers all over America being asked to cover their classroom expenses out of pocket, especially in states where the funding for public education is notoriously low.

    I live in one such state, and was actually an education major at a state university before dropping out. Once I started shadowing teachers and having earnest conversations with them about the realities of the job, I decided teaching wasn’t for me.

    Also, the fact that I can write off things like mileage and office supplies as an independent contractor (I do freelance web development and SEO consulting) just makes me feel even worse for those teachers who feel pressured to buy supplies themselves and possibly won’t be reimbursed. We really need to value teachers more and stop treating them this way.

  27. Ophelia*

    As a K12 employee (7-12, really) we work daily to question whether actions are traditions or habits. Traditions should be respected and upheld; habits should be evaluated and bad ones broken.

  28. Adult Teacher Kid*

    Hey OP,
    Don’t know if you’ll see this but just my thoughts on the weird way the Principal is trying to get you to use your money:
    I seems like she is trying to encourage her staff self fund the beginning of the year school supplies and “save up” all you discretionary funds for big purchase items for your room. Your boss know this is BS and you should too.

    All those beginning of the year supplies are finite and run out (eg: crayons, wet wipes, hand sanitizer) where as the big ticket items should last for years (eg: ipad, chromebook, projectors) If you move on, what is bought with your school supplied fund STAYS WITH THE SCHOOL. You can’t take it with you. If you buy something with award money, grant money, or out of your pocket… it’s yours and goes where you go regardless.

    So if you spend the money given to you how the Principal wants you to you get a box of half used crayons, and the school gets the ipads you bought with the discretionary funds you sacrificed for it. Your principal isn’t fool, but the player got played, so congrats to you!

    So stick to your guns. You are not crazy. Buy your yearly usables for class each year with your provided funds. Any big ticket items you buy with you own money get a kick ass label maker and put “Property of Ms. ___” on it :)

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