The state would bypass local school districts and give each N.C. public school teacher access to $400 for classroom supplies under a bill unveiled Wednesday, April 3.

“Every year … around $50 million is sent to local school boards to pay for supplies for classrooms,” said Sen. Andy Wells, R-Catawba, during a news conference unveiling Senate Bill 580. “But in the past, that $50 million hasn’t gone straight to classroom teachers. Instead the money was paid to local school boards, which turned out to be a mistake.”

“All too often, local bureaucrats decided not to spend the money on school supplies,” Wells added. “Bureaucrats used the money to pay for other things on their to-do list and left teachers paying for their own classroom supplies.”

Under S.B. 580, teachers would use a smartphone app called ClassWallet to document classroom supply purchases. They would be reimbursed for any purchases made before Aug. 31 and would use the app itself to pay for purchases after that date.

Superintendent of Public Instruction Mark Johnson supports the proposal. “Each teacher will be able to determine how to best spend those $400 for their classroom’s needs,” Johnson said during the news conference. “Just as we are working so hard to personalize learning for our students, we must acknowledge that every teacher has different individual needs for their classrooms.”

A companion bill is expected in the N.C. House. That chamber’s senior budget writer, Rep. Jason Saine, R-Lincoln, touted the information the new program will provide about teacher’s classroom supply needs.

“Using the analytics that we will receive from this app will help us in future years know what kinds of supplies are needed, where should the money go,” Saine said. “It’s a tool for the teacher as well to know where do they spend money.”

There’s no expectation that S.B. 580 would require additional funding for classroom supplies. Sponsors say the money would come from existing supply funds. After setting aside money to provide $400 for 94,000 teachers statewide, roughly $10 million would be left for the school districts, said Sen. Jerry Tillman, R-Randolph.