Families: Teachers' Mart

A growing network of outlets offers free school supplies to teachers who often pay for their own

Josefina Aguilera confronted public education's sad secret on her first day. "I came into the classroom," recalls the newly hired kindergarten teacher at 68th Street Elementary School in South Central Los Angeles, "and all I saw were crayons, some books and construction paper." Aguilera made a list of what was not there: puzzles, art supplies, puppets, records, posters and a bulletin board. Knowing the school could not pay for these items, she went shopping. "I spent about $300," she estimates. "My husband didn't know."

Outfitting a classroom at your own expense is the dirty little secret of the teaching profession. Informal...

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