Teachers do as much as they can to support their students — including spending their own money.
In fact, 94 percent of public school teachers spend their personal income on classroom supplies without reimbursement, writes education reporter Madeline Will. Teachers aren’t splurging on pizza parties either; they’re paying for paper towels, pencils, dry erase markers, books, paper, ink cartridges, and any other basic supplies their classrooms need. And this doesn’t even begin to cover the equipment for more specialized subjects, like science or music.
The out-of-pocket spending is only going to get worse, says Daniel B. Kline at The Motley Fool. Teachers spent 39 percent more of their own money in 2018 than they did the year before, and not by choice. Student learning requires certain materials, but school budgets keep getting tighter. And certain families — especially those living in poverty — can’t afford to buy these supplies. So teachers feel pressured to provide the resources themselves.
Teachers already wear many hats. But with budget cuts and insufficient salaries, they’re also adding “fundraiser” to their job descriptions. Fortunately, there are plenty of tools and organizations that want to help teachers equip their classrooms.
Mobile apps and business partnerships bring in class supplies
Nowadays, there are apps for anything and everything — and classroom fundraising is no exception.
ClassTag is a parent-teacher communication tool that’s also designed to help teachers collect donations for school supplies. As MindRocket Media CEO Rod Berger explains, the company “partners with sponsors that want to connect with parents and donate money to their children’s classrooms” for important educational materials.
ClassTag also encourages parent-teacher communication by giving out reward coins for parent engagement and teacher referrals. Coins can be traded for free supplies donated from major brands.
Crowdfunding makes fundraising easier
Crowdfunding can be used to raise money for a variety of needs. When it comes to classroom fundraising, there are several online crowdfunding platforms to choose from — all focused on bringing teachers and donors together.
One of the most popular fundraising platforms for teachers is DonorsChoose.org. Andy Yung, a pre-K teacher from Flushing, New York, has funded 91 projects with DonorsChoose.org and raised $35,000 worth of materials for his students. He offers creative tips for teachers who are looking to raise money.
Yung keeps a “Wall of Donors” bulletin board outside his classroom to show appreciation for the individuals who have supported his students. He also shows his gratitude on social media by posting pictures of thank-you notes, tagging donors, and sharing links to the fundraiser.
Teachers with their own websites or blogs can run their class fundraisers using online forms. On their donation forms, they can list the items they need, how much each item costs, and how many items they require. Digital forms can even be integrated with secure payment systems like PayPal to seamlessly accept donations online. Teachers can then directly invite parents, friends, and local businesses to donate.
Local nonprofits and businesses offer discounts
Local nonprofits also realize the financial challenges teachers face, and many are stepping up to help. PENCIL is a Nashville-based nonprofit that collects and distributes school supply donations to public school teachers in the area. Once a semester, teachers can come in to the center to “shop” for all the free supplies they need.
Teachers can spend anywhere from hundreds to thousands of dollars a year setting up and maintaining their classrooms, writes journalist Bailey Basham at the Nashville Scene. Organizations like PENCIL help support teachers who are giving students the best possible learning experiences at their own expense.
Not all teachers are lucky enough to have a nonprofit like PENCIL in their area. However, teachers can enjoy discounts from local businesses and national corporations.
Major companies offer discounts and loyalty programs to teachers, writes commerce reporter Mara Leighton. These major companies include Target, Barnes & Noble, The Container Store, and many more. Certain insurance providers and clothing brands also offer discounts to teachers; while they may not offer school supplies per se, this can save teachers money on their personal purchases and allow them to contribute more to the classroom.
It takes a village
School supplies are a basic necessity for every classroom, yet teachers are expected to provide pens, notebooks, and educational materials to support their students.
Sadly, this is a reality teachers have accepted for many years. But to break the cycle of reaching for their own wallets first, teachers can instead reach out to others willing to step up and fill in the gaps for educational funding.