Our Opinion: Help local teachers, students by giving classroom supplies

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Police officers aren’t asked to buy their own handcuffs or radios.

Paramedics don’t foot the bill for bandages, gauze and tape.

Full-time or volunteer, all firefighters are equipped with air tanks and turnout gear.

Teachers are the only public servants expected to chip in for the tools they need to perform their job. On average, each educator shells out roughly $500 each year to buy classroom supplies.

To meet the needs federal, state and local government fail to fulfill, communities come together each summer to pitch in for our public schools and defray the cost burden our hardworking teachers will shoulder.

Gov. Roy Cooper has helped organize one such effort, the second annual Governor’s School Supply Drive. From now through Aug. 17, supplies will be collected at every State Employees’ Credit Union branch, state government offices in Raleigh and here at The Wilson Times to make sure teachers and students start the 2018-19 school year off on the right foot.

“When you’re shopping for your family’s school supplies, consider purchasing an additional item from our supply list and donating it at a drop-off location,” Cooper said in a statement. “Businesses can also get involved by downloading our School Supply Drive kit and collecting supplies in your workplace.”

The Times took Cooper up on that suggestion and made a donation box available in the lobby of our 126 Nash St. office. Other Wilson County businesses are welcome to join in — with more collection sites come more contributions of essential school tools.

The donation drive is geared toward the eight items in highest demand — all types of copier and notebook paper, pens and pencils, USB flash drives, dry-erase markers, spiral notebooks, sanitizing wipes and boxes of tissues.

While similar campaigns collect school supplies for underprivileged children who may otherwise show up to class unprepared, this one benefits teachers and, by extension, the students they serve. Both types of donation drives are worthy efforts deserving of community-wide support.

Many educators keep a desk drawer or closet shelf stocked with spare notebooks, pens and pencils for students who will need them throughout the year. Other supplies like dry-erase markers, copier paper, USB drives and sanitizing wipes help entire classrooms.

These are the bottom-dollar basics, the barest of bare necessities. Teachers will still wind up shelling out for class project supplies, instructional aids, organizational tools and classroom decorations. Those individual expenses vary from school to school, grade to grade and class to class, but we can still show our support by pitching in for the essentials.

Noting that his past two budget proposals have included a $150 annual supply stipend for every public school teacher in the state, Cooper took a well-aimed swipe at state lawmakers in announcing the donation drive.

“Teachers shouldn’t have to dip into their own pockets to cover the cost of classroom supplies that their students need to learn,” Cooper said. “One day we’re going to convince the legislature to make a greater investment in public schools, but until then, we want to do everything we can to get students and teachers the supplies they need for a successful school year.”

While Cooper’s budget had less potential for passage in the Republican-controlled General Assembly than a snowball’s chance in H-E-double-hockey-sticks, we agree that lawmakers should have funded classroom supply stipends. A cool $150 in every teacher’s pocket would do far more good than a few million dollars directed to the educational bureaucracy in Raleigh.

Leaving politics aside, the governor’s school supply drive is something we can all get behind. Buying a box of tissues and a couple packs of copier paper won’t do anything for Cooper’s re-election prospects in 2020, but it will make a real and meaningful difference to teachers and students here in Wilson County.

All the class supplies we collect will stay local. So please, pitch in for students’ sake.

SECU has three branches in Wilson — 3004 N.C. 42 West, 3990 Ward Blvd. and 4501 Nash St. N. There’s also a branch in Nashville at 1201 Eastern Ave. and one in Snow Hill at 601 Gregory Ave.

The Wilson Times will accept donated school supplies in the front lobby during regular business hours, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays through Fridays.