Last week, Aztec Elementary School in Scottsdale received a check for more than $600 from Target — one of the many discount and grocery stores that give money to East Valley schools.
At a time when schools are pinching every penny, those extra dollars come in handy, educators say.
At Aztec, the money buys classroom supplies like markers, dry erase boards and printer paper, said principal Chris Loots.
"Teachers are notorious for spending their own money on those classroom supplies; we’re trying to defer that cost," she said.
Every large grocery store in the East Valley offers some type of program in which a portion of its sales go to schools.
"It’s a mutually beneficial thing," said Lee McKenzie, principal of McArthur Elementary School in Mesa. "They get advertising and business and, at no cost to parents, we get money to help supplement what’s going on in the schools."
McKenzie used the money to purchase shade structures for the playgrounds and teaching supplies.
Last year, the school struggled to collect money from the stores’ campaigns, he said, but in the past as much as $4,000 was earned through the programs.
Steve Nance, principal of Pima Elementary in Scottsdale, put last year’s funds toward footballs, basketballs, jump ropes and other playground equipment.
Safeway recently launched its "10% Back to Schools" program, which donates 10 percent of the sales on more than 1,000 selected products ranging from microwave popcorn to pasta sauce.
Customers can accumulate "school dollars" until Sept. 6, when they can give their last totaled receipt to the school of their choice.
Bashas’ and AJ’s Fine Foods customers can take advantage of the "Thanks a Million" campaign starting in September. Shoppers must get an identification number for their school. By giving the number to the cashier, 1 percent of all purchases will go to the school’s fund.
Food City shoppers have to hold on to their receipts until January, when they can donate them to schools. The principal can then order educational equipment like supplies and computers from a catalog.
Fry’s Food Stores is implementing its Cool Cash program, which should be up and running by August. Every time shoppers use their VIP card, a percentage of their expenditures will be given to the school of their choice. Last year, Fry’s gave $188,000 to schools through the program.