If you haven’t heard, Target is holding a teacher discount sale from July 15 through July 21, offering verified educators a 15% discount on school supplies, according to a post on their website. At first glance, this announcement seems great. I mean, teachers are constantly struggling to furnish their classrooms, so who wouldn’t be excited about an opportunity to save a little cash in the process? But when you really get down to the nitty gritty of the issue, Target’s new teacher discount sale totally misses the bullseye.
Well, for starters, they’re only offering 15% off of select school supplies, and they’re only doing it for a week. When you crunch the numbers, 15% off already marked-up prices isn’t really that much, and it’s not like teachers have unlimited bank to get everything they’ll need for the entire school year in a single week. And just what exactly is included in those select supplies is unclear, though Target mentions “pens, pencils, crayons and markers, classroom storage and organization and tissues, hand sanitizer and more” in their post. Perhaps the most compelling reason why this sale misses the mark, though, is the fact that it has to exist in the first place.
Look. As a teacher and general paycheck-to-paycheck-liver, I’m grateful for any discount I can get, and I think it’s great that teachers across the nation will be able to stock up on much-needed supplies to get them through October 1 (because let’s be real about how long those supplies actually last). But teachers shouldn’t have to purchase their own supplies in the first place. As government employees, many of whose job security relies on their ability to perform their work, they should be provided with the supplies necessary to do that work. And Target shouldn’t be exploiting teachers’ lack of support for financial gain. Because that’s what they’re doing — offering a measly discount to usher customers through the door so the corporation can profit from teachers’ misfortune.
And before anybody chimes in with the tired cries of 1) “Well, teachers are nothing more than glorified babysitters,” 2) “Don’t complain when you get summers off,” or 3) “There are lots of professions that require workers to provide their own supplies,” NO. Don’t go there.
1) If you’ve never taught, you can’t understand the mental and physical stamina teaching requires, and I have yet to see a job posting for a babysitter that requires a Master’s degree and the willingness to take on 30+ children at once.
2) Teachers don’t get paid summers off. They are unemployed for those two months and, even though many, such as I, do not get a guaranteed contract for the next school year until summer is almost over, they are not eligible to collect unemployment during those months, so they ask to have their paychecks, which cover 10 months of work, spread out across the entire year and pick up second jobs.
3) Teachers are paid 17% less than employees in other professions requiring comparable education and training (which teachers also have to pay for themselves, with very few receiving stipends or tuition kickbacks to cover the full cost). And over the past decade alone, funding to schools has decreased dramatically, leaving teachers, with their waning salaries and benefits, to pick up even more slack than they already were.
Teachers are also seemingly the only profession expected to have a philanthropic desire to live with so few resources unless they purchase their own — and to be punished professionally when lack of resources contributes to disproportionate student growth: “It’s all about the kids, isn’t it? What kind of monster are you? If you really love them, little pay and scant resources shouldn’t bother you. Besides, a good teacher doesn’t need pencils and paper to get the job done.”
Listen. I love my job and my students, and I wouldn’t want to be doing anything else, but I also love paying my bills. It’s a calling and a lifestyle, but it’s also A JOB. One that should, by definition, bring income in rather than require such a substantive outpouring of it just to get the basics to perform my duties.
So sorry, Target, but some of us aren’t impressed with your willingness to perpetuate and profit from the expectation that teachers do more with less, all while they get blamed for factors far beyond their control. If you really want to help teachers, donate supplies to local school districts and use your power to influence policymakers to make changes that benefit our youth by empowering educators who work their behinds off, and spend their savings, to do everything they can to help kids with what little they have.