Teaching Profession

Teachers Continue Relying on Charity to Solve Classroom Resource Woes

By Ross Brenneman — September 02, 2014 1 min read
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Many teachers end up spending a good deal of money on classroom supplies every year. This year will be different, though!

Haha, no, kidding. Sorry, teachers, but it appears to be an ingrained way of life now; there are articles about it in local papers pretty much every year.

As the Houston Chronicle points out in this year’s iteration:

Major overhauls to the [Texas] state curriculum and a constant stream of new students mean teachers need more materials and supplies, including basics like name tags, hand sanitizer and Kleenex. 'It's very stressful,' [teacher Adrian] Sralla said, adding that even with aggressive fundraising, she's already shelled out about $200 for the new school year.

Popular classroom charity site DonorsChoose.org continues to be a fundraising powerhouse, and PledgeCents is growing, too. Over a three-day span in August, the Gates Foundation even pledged to pay for half of all projects on DonorsChoose.org (up to $1 million). The IRS, in seeming recognition of the classroom-resource problem, actually offered an “educator expense” deduction on federal income taxes, but that expired at the end of 2013. Many websites also offer lists of grants for classroom necessities. And a relatively new service, ClassWallet.com, allows administrators to add money to accounts for teachers, but it also lets teachers accept contributions from parents and donors—charity is built into the business concept.

I’d guess that the financial burden of school supplies would be hardest for new teachers, who don’t have supplies from the year before and who have the smallest base salary to use on getting new materials. Or maybe they just go without enough materials for a while.

A 2010 study by the National School Supply and Equipment Association found that teachers collectively spend $1.6 billion annually on school supplies. A 2013 survey by Horace Mann Companies found teachers still spend hundreds of their own dollars on curricular materials.

Oh, and it’s not just classroom resources; some teachers spend their own money to feed their students, too. As NBC Nightly News profiled in a “Making the Difference” segment on Sunday, teachers at Comanche Elementary School, in New Mexico, have created a food pantry for their neediest students—stocked with items bought by teachers:

It’s important to note that even in 1-to-1 computer classrooms, technology doesn’t alleviate the need for other basic school supplies; many such classrooms operate with blended-learning models that still require paper and pencils at some point (and math class especially). Plus, you know, Kleenex and whiteboard markers and all that good stuff.

But maybe things will change next year!

Image: Hot new school item. Source: Evan-Amos/Wikipedia

A version of this news article first appeared in the Teaching Now blog.