Public school budgets are continually on the chopping block and teacher pay remains stagnant. As a result, teachers are turning to crowdfund sites to pick up the slack for things ranging from classroom supplies to field trips. DonorsChoose is one such site that’s designed specifically with them in mind. And it’s widely popular. Nationwide, more than 80 percent of schools have at least one instructor that rely on the site, according to statistics compiled by the non-profit organization.
But now there’s a monkey wrench, Vox reports.
School districts are starting to ban teachers from using crowdfunding sites for school supplies — and there’s a good chance teachers will be forced to spend their own money on the necessary supplies.
When you consider that the average annual salary for K-12 teachers was just over $58,000 during the 2016-2017 school year, data from the National Education Association (NEA) shows, it’s no wonder that teachers rely on crowdfunding sites. A survey last May by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) shows that 94 percent of teachers have used their own money to purchase supplies. And 36 percent of the teachers surveyed spent between $250-$500 yearly. Educators in low-income schools reported they spent more.
So why are school districts prohibiting teachers from using crowdfunding sites?
School officials are voicing concerns, saying that they have no way of knowing if the educational materials and technology via individual teacher requests correspond with district standards, The Education Week Teacher reports. There’s also the worry that the decentralized process will make it more difficult to track how money is distributed between schools.
So some districts — including recently the Nashville public school system — are now prohibiting teachers from using DonorsChoose and other crowdfunding sites. The Metro Nashville board of education’s fundraising policy, last updated in January 2018, bans staff members from using online fundraising sites. Schools can use crowdfunding sites for school-wide fundraising but must seek permission from the district to do so.
During the past decade at least 1100 instructors in Metro Nashville schools have produced projects on the site that have funded some $1.5 million in school supplies. But unfortunately, all of that’s come to a halt because since Metro Nashville Public Schools emailed teachers last December to tell them the DonorsChoose platform was prohibited.
Teachers are understandably unhappy and have taken to social media to air their concerns, maintaining that they need to use the crowdfunding site to provide the necessities for their students.
Nashville: refuses to fund cost of living raises, consistently underfunds overcrowded classrooms, continually introduces new curricular mandates that undermine teachers as professionals…
Also Nashville: yeah, no, you can’t try to fundraise https://t.co/wyiK9rzSGU
— pay LOSER teachers a living wage (@MsB_MEd) January 18, 2019
If you don’t want us to crowd source, give us the stuff we want/need for our classes https://t.co/tj9F6pvqd8
— Elizabeth Ault (@blondefrizz) March 11, 2019
As it stands, the district offers instructors up to $200 in reimbursements for instructional materials and other resources that they purchase for their students, but crowdfunding sites like DonorsChoose offer the chance for them to raise more.
And now we have Education Secretary Betsy DeVos pushing for larger classrooms in order to justify a budget that slashes federal education spending by more than 10 percent, writes Patrick Kelly for EducationPost. Undoubtedly that will force instructors to come up with more money to help their students.
“Students may be better served by being in larger classes if by hiring fewer teachers, a district or state can better compensate those who have demonstrated high ability and outstanding results.”
In what universe does this bizarre “less is more” attitude towards the very people who help our kids the most make sense? No wonder teachers are angry.