By Guest Blogger Sasha Jones
Some districts have banned teachers from using DonorsChoose, a crowdfunding site that helps raise money for instructional materials and other classroom needs, Education Week reported earlier this week. That news has drawn a wave of reactions from teachers, administrators, and other readers.
Districts say it can be hard to monitor whether the donated materials align with district standards, and cite concerns that the decentralized process makes it difficult to track how money is distributed among schools.
Still, many districts encourage teachers to use such sites as a way to supplement school resources without having to dip into their own wallets. According to the nonprofit, 81 percent of schools in the U.S. have at least one teacher who has listed a project on DonorsChoose.
The ban comes at a time when teachers around the country are rallying and striking to call for higher salaries and increased education funding. Many readers said they rely on DonorsChoose to make up for what their district can’t provide.
As with GoFundMe campaigns as health insurance policies, the real scandal here is not that teachers are using DonorsChoose, but that relying on outside funding is logical because public schools are so perpetually underfunded https://t.co/5djVRrBA0x
— Joseph Boselovic (@infinite_joseph) March 18, 2019
It is second nature for me to have an idea for curriculum enrichment or enhancement, and then (almost immediately) think, “Right, but where will the money come from.” The answer my colleagues and I arrive at every time: outside source.
-- Neil Massey (@ianneil11) March 15, 2019
As a teacher, I frequently used Donors Choose to acquire materials for my classroom. Sad to see districts, including @MetroSchools, banning such use. If you won’t provide teachers adequate resources, don’t stand in their way of acquiring them elsewhere.https://t.co/lXahFexmEU
-- Chris Curran (@fchriscurran) March 15, 2019
Right?! DC has helped my students in so many ways from field trips to books to guest speakers. There’s no inequity in schools because ANY teacher at a school can take the time to create a project. This is an ignorant & short-sighted decision & it’s the students who will suffer.
-- Nancy Barile, NBCT (@NancyBarile) March 17, 2019
Many readers indicated that their own districts have also banned the website, or placed additional restrictions on teachers who use the service.
Some said it’s wrong that districts can put the burden on teachers to fundraise rather than providing them with materials.
Always been conflicted about these sites. So inappropriate that teachers are directed to these sites by admins who don’t provide basic supplies (ie. printer ink, paper), and then gross inequities between what teachers have time/ network to request (ie. flexible seating) #edequity
-- Beth Brady (@BradyloBeth) March 15, 2019
Readers were also furious at the insinuation that teachers might be pocketing the money, even though only the purchased materials are sent, not the donated funds.
“That is beyond ridiculous. Thanks for slapping the face of every public school teacher in the country. Apparently there is not enough to do at the district level other than think of ways teachers may be plotting their own gain.” -Elementary T.
Several people argued that administrators ban these sites simply because they don’t want the public perception that the district is underfunded.
“My guess is that the real concern is that administrators do not like advertising that they cannot adequately fund education. I have yet to see an administration ban teachers spending their own money on a classroom.” -lizteacher
And some administrators argued that teachers could actually get more funding from their districts if they asked for it.
“Districts certainly do not like the perception that they are not supporting the needs of classroom teachers but there are two sides to this story. One example, there was a teacher in our district who sent in a request to put something on DonorsChoose. Before approving the request, we asked the teacher if she had checked with her Principal or the district office to see if they could provide the resources she needed. The teacher had not done this and within an hour we had identified available resources and ordered the materials the teacher wanted. Communication is an important part of this process and that should not be overlooked. I can only speak for our district but we want to do everything possible to support our teachers. We can only do so if we are aware of their needs and desires.” -emurray0113
A version of this news article first appeared in the Teaching Now blog.