Citing his wife’s problems using the card, state Sen. Darren Soto said Wednesday he was unhappy that a new program to give teachers debit cards for buying school supplies was taking so long to roll out and being largely ignored by most of Florida’s public schools.

So he plans to push a bill in next spring’s legislative session to get the cards into teachers’ hands earlier, as well as upping the dollars they could use to by classroom supplies.

For years, the state has provided some money for teachers to buy supplies, although the amount has dipped in recent years with budget cuts.

The stipend effort has been called the Teacher Lead Program. Enacted in 1998, it provided $100 annually for teachers to buy classroom materials, books and supplies. In 2006, lawmakers increased the amount to $250. Last year, $180 per-teacher was funded.

This year, lawmakers rechristened it the “Florida Teachers Classroom Supply Assistance Program.”

As part of a broader $1-billion increase in education funding pushed by Gov. Rick Scott and legislators, school districts are being allowed to issue debit cards to teachers to buy as much as $250 in supplies for their classrooms.

But so far, Orange County is one of only seven of the state’s 67 school districts which have enacted the program — in part, because it doesn’t make the cards available until well after teachers need to have their class-supplies purchased, Soto said. Here’s a Miami Herald story on it.

Soto said his wife, who teaches science at Jackson Middle School, didn’t get the card in time to use before teachers reported back to classrooms this week. Orange County’s school-year starts next week.

Click here for the story in the Orlando Sentinel

Senator Soto unhappy with slow rollout of teacher debit cards
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