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Teacher's Choice

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Generic image - piggybank, teacher's choice

The landmark City Council program, initiated by the UFT more than 25 years ago, reimburses educators — as determined by title — for the purchase of classroom and school supplies of their choice.

This year, in a major milestone for the program, Mayor Bill de Blasio and the City Council agreed to allocate $20 million in funds for Teacher's Choice as part of the annual city budget.

Funding by title for the 2019–20 school year

Title Amount
Teachers $250
School counselors $110
Social workers and psychologists $110
Universal literacy coaches $110
Single Shepherds $110
Occupational and physical therapists $95
School nurses $95
Lab specialists $85
School secretaries $60

How the program works

To make use of your Teacher's Choice funds, educators must save their receipts for purchases made between Aug. 1, 2019 and Jan. 12, 2020. These receipts must accompany a Statement of Purpose/Accountability form, which must be submitted by Jan. 17, 2020. 

Members receive their Teacher's Choice funds in their last November or first December paychecks. Those who do not wish to participate must submit a Request for Non-Participation (Opt Out Form) by Oct. 18, 2019. If you receive the Teacher's Choice funds in your paycheck and do not file an accountability form with required receipts by the  deadline, you will be obligated to refund the money to the DOE.

Items purchased under Teacher's Choice must be appropriate for educational use in the classroom or for other professional assignments. The Teacher's Choice stipend is not intended for purchases of basic supplies such as textbooks, chalk, paper, microscopes and math manipulatives, which principals are contractually obligated to provide. If that obligation is not met, let your chapter leader know.

Educators are encouraged to take advantage of the many deals on school supplies being offered throughout the city and online. The UFT supports the boycott of Staples, which is taking jobs away from unionized U.S. postal workers as the U.S. Postal Service outsources its work.

Educators are also reminded that other unreimbursed spending on school supplies may be tax-deductible.

Key dates for the 2019–20 school year

Aug. 1, 2019 Purchasing period begins
Oct. 18, 2019 Deadline to submit the Request for Non-Participation Form to opt out
Nov. 29, 2019 Initial distribution of funds to eligible employees in their regular paychecks. Funds will be treated as a post-net adjustment and are non-taxable
Dec. 31, 2019 Second distribution of funds to eligible employees who did not receive funds during the initial distribution
Jan. 12, 2020 Deadline to make purchases
Jan. 17, 2020 Deadline to submit the accountability form
June 30, 2020 Participants who did not opt out and did not submit their receipts and accountability form will receive a deduction in their paychecks

Still have questions?

For additional information or assistance from the DOE, see the DOE's Teacher's Choice website (note: you'll have to log in) or please contact the DOE Teacher's Choice Unit at 718-935-3304 or email teacherschoice@schools.nyc.gov. At the UFT, call 212-331-6311.

I'm having a difficult time obtaining classroom supplies and materials at my school. Do I have to buy these items myself?

No. Your school must provide you with basic instructional supplies and books, such as textbooks, paper, chalk, microscopes and math manipulatives. In fact, it's a contractual right. Instructional supplies are part of the system-wide standards and schools are responsible for providing them to teachers and functional chapter employees. 

If you want something beyond these basic supplies, you do have the option to purchase items for your classroom with money from the Teacher's Choice program for which teachers can be reimbursed up to $250 per year (other titles receive less). 

I'm having a difficult time obtaining classroom supplies and materials at my school. Do I have to buy these items myself?

No. Your school must provide you with basic instructional supplies and books, such as textbooks, paper, chalk, microscopes and math manipulatives. In fact, it's a contractual right. Instructional supplies are part of the system-wide standards and schools are responsible for providing them to teachers and functional chapter employees. 

If you want something beyond these basic supplies, you do have the option to purchase items for your classroom with money from the Teacher's Choice program for which teachers can be reimbursed up to $250 per year (other titles receive less).

How much can I be reimbursed through Teachers Choice for purchasing items for my classroom/school?

Here is a listing of Teacher's Choice allocations for 2019:

What can I use my Teacher's Choice money to buy?

Teacher’s Choice allocations are not for basic supplies; your school should provide those. If that’s not the case, talk to your chapter leader. They are for special projects or enrichment materials for your classes. Sometimes a group of UFT members pool their money to buy equipment or other more expensive purchases for a grade or department--but this is purely voluntary; the choice is yours.

How does the Teacher's Choice program work?

Members receive their Teacher's Choice funds in their last November or first December paychecks, but you should start purchasing and saving receipts sooner than this date. For this school year, purchases made between Aug. 1, 2019 and mid January, 2020 are eligible. Receipts for these purchases must accompany a Statement of Purpose/Accountability form. Items purchased under Teacher's Choice must be appropriate for educational use in the classroom or for other professional assignments.

Those who do not wish to participate in the program must submit a Request for Non-Participation (Opt Out Form). If you receive the Teacher's Choice funds in your paycheck and do not file an accountability form with required receipts by the deadline, you will be obligated to refund the money to the DOE.

What is Teacher's Choice?

Teacher’s Choice gives UFT members buying power. It is money provided in the budget by the New York City Council that reimburses eligible UFT members up to an allotted amount for the cost of supplementary supplies and materials that they buy to help them do their jobs.

Teachers, school counselors, social workers, school psychologists, lab specialists, occupational and physical therapists, school nurses and school secretaries should check with their chapter leaders to find out how much money is allocated for their title.