High schools in the Toronto District School Board (TDSB) offer students a wide variety of subjects and courses to choose from. Schools are also provided a budget from the Board based on a number of factors, such as the number of students attending the school.  However, the TDSB also regulates the flow of supplies to its schools, and implements policies that restrict where school departments and teachers can purchase their supplies.

Within a secondary school, teachers can utilize the allocated budget for their department to order materials and classroom supplies. The process, however, is specifically structured by the Board. The TDSB has a central distribution centre for supplies and materials which schools order from. This distribution centre is divided into four silos which help narrow down where teachers put their orders. Teachers need only to apply for a supply order from their curriculum department head, and the department head then files an order to the distribution centre for the supplies. The TDSB buys the stock in the distribution centre in bulk from stores that apply to be a TDSB vendor. This is in order to save money for the Board in the long run, which is understandable for common items that are purchased in bulk, such as construction paper or pencils. If teachers require something more specific and is not listed in the TDSB catalogue, they can purchase the item from a TDSB approved vendor and apply for a reimbursement.

The TDSB puts too much focus on standardizing the way schools acquire their supplies, and the policy and process that they are currently using is impractical when it comes to efficiently using money. By setting a fixed price with contracted vendors, the TDSB is isolating itself from capitalizing on discounts and sales that may arise in the future. This forces schools to pay more for materials at a specific location than if they were allowed to shop elsewhere. If teachers were given the freedom to shop wherever they wanted, this would provide room for teachers to purchase more frugally and at their own discretion for their classroom.

Instead of distributing all of a school’s supplies through a central distribution system, the TDSB should consider a system where bulk supplies are provided by the TDSB distribution centre, but teachers are given the flexibility and freedom to utilize their budget to purchase their own supplies where they see fit. No restriction should be made to the vendors that teachers are allowed to purchase from, and so prices of products will not be fixed throughout the year. This allows teachers to purchase more frugally for their classroom, and allows schools to utilize their budget more efficiently.

The TDSB is standardizing a component of the classroom that is unique and depends on each individual classroom situation. This system should be revised to allow for more flexibility for teachers, as they know much more about the needs of their own classroom than the TDSB does.

Illustration: Joy Wang

Illustration: Joy Wang