While public school officials across the United States grapple with shifting budgets and determine how to equitably distribute resources, one thing remains certain. Teachers should not have to pay out of pocket for classroom materials. But too often, the complexities of public sector procurement give rise to this exact scenario.
Schools work hard to place orders throughout the year and provide teachers with what they need, but it’s not always enough. One of the most common reasons teachers make out of pocket purchases is to acquire supplemental learning materials for students who are struggling to grasp curriculum on their own. Classroom aides could include additional readings, model building materials, art supplies and more. Aside from complementing curriculum, many teachers will provide students with pens, pencils, paper, and notebooks as well.
That’s why the City of Chicago’s Board of Education and the Chicago Teachers Union have committed to providing teachers, counselors, clinicians, and speech-language paraeducators with $250 each per year for the purchase of instructional supplies, classroom libraries, and therapeutic materials for student support. The program is being funded by the City of Chicago. In August 2022, Chicago Public Schools (CPS) launched an online platform to manage these funds. The feature is an add-on to CPS’s existing procure-to-pay platform.
With the new platform, each educator will have access to their own individual, pre-paid account. They will be able to make purchases within the district’s existing supplier marketplace, or purchase outside of the marketplace and submit reimbursement requests. The mobile-friendly platform has the ability to route reimbursement requests and accompanying receipts to administrators for approval. Once approved, reimbursements will be deposited directly into instructors’ bank accounts.
“We will have access to accurate, up-to-date spend data on transactions occurring both inside and outside of our online marketplace, allowing funds to be distributed responsibly,” said Charles Mayfield, CPS’s Interim COO. “The district will also have the ability to track line-item spend down to the individual shopper.”
CPS believes that the automation provided by the new platform, coupled with its transparency, will shorten the district’s supplemental fund cycle. The district is hopeful that the efficiency of the program will eliminate the need for educators to purchase time-sensitive supplies from costlier brick and mortar stores, and instead encourage them to order via approved suppliers at a significant savings. Nevertheless, if purchases outside of the marketplace are required, instructors will be reimbursed in a timely manner.
The reimbursement feature, dubbed “MyFunds”, was built by EqualLevel and is the newest addition to its leading eProcurement platform. Orville Bailey, EqualLevel’s CEO, said of CPS’s new platform, “By marrying policy with technology, Chicago Public Schools has made leaps and bounds when it comes to simplifying procurement and providing educators with the resources they need.”
The EqualLevel MyFunds solution transforms K-12 fund management practices by automating the fund distribution, shopping, tracking, reconciliation, and reimbursement processes. This collapses the supplemental fund management cycle and minimizes administrative overhead. Having visibility into the spending of allocated funds and access to real-time reporting is also paramount for school districts across the country. MyFunds delivers line-item level transparency of every purchase and makes the audit process seamless.