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Educators Turn to Crowdsourcing to Combat the Cost of Digging into Their Own Pockets

Being a teacher isn't cheap. Each year thousands of teachers reach into their own pockets to buy school supplies and teaching tools to help their students succeed in the classroom. It's not something they're required to do, but instead choose to because if a few of their own dollars spent helps a child learn, it's worth it in the long run. 

For teachers like music educator Tony Flores, this can be a challenging expense that can quickly add up to the tune of hundreds, sometimes thousands of dollars. “Unfortunately, we’re in a situation that the teachers are expected to — on a low salary already — pay for everything themselves,” said Flores, who teaches music to elementary school children at Wiley Post Elementary in Oklahoma. “In no other profession is this an expectation.”

While the chance of teachers being reimbursed for every penny of out-of-pocket costs by their school system is an unlikely possibility, some educators are taking a grassroots approach on the issue. That grassroots approach we're talking about of course is internet crowdsourcing — and for many, it's proving to be incredibly successful. 

Chicago middle school teacher Blake McDonald was able to raise $515 back in March through GoFundMe to buy books so that he might spark his students to develop a love of reading outside of school textbooks. "Not every 13-year-old in the city of Chicago loves to read. I hope I can change that perspective a little bit," he told The Chicago Tribune. With the money raised he was able to buy titles like The Kite Runner and All American Boys for his 60 students. It's just one way of helping to offset the cost of teachers tapping into their own paycheck for students. 

Scholastic, the education publishing company, conducted a survey last year of 4,721 public school teachers asking them about the issue of spending their own paycheck on supplies. The responses included spending money on everything from school supplies like paper and glue to snacks, cleaning items, clothing and athletic equipment. Among the teachers surveyed, the average amount spent per year across the board was $530. Concerning teachers at schools in low-income areas, the number was higher with an average of $672 spent. 

While teachers often get help in covering supplies from parents, many still have to use their own money because school-provided materials simply aren't enough to engage students. “They’re going to do whatever it takes. And if it takes spending $200-300 out of their pocket, they are going to do it,” John Cox, president of the Organization of Rural Elementary Schools, told Oklahoma Watch. “They sacrifice their own income to help a child out.”

This is precisely why more teachers like Blake McDonald are turning to crowdsourcing groups for help. Since GoFundMe began in 2010, 2,450 campaigns to raise money for school programs and supplies have been started — just in Illinois. Educators in Texas, California, Georgia, Florida  and New York are also some of the highest in the nation for having raised funds through such campaigns. 

For teachers in both urban and rural school systems, sites like Kickstarter, GoFundMe and DonorsChoose, offer another avenue towards ensuring their students have the necessary tools to help them succeed, while taking some of the financial weight off of the educator. 

Currently, GoFundMe is running a “We Love Teachers” fundraiser to support K-12 teachers as part of National Teacher Appreciation Week. The campaign runs through May 8th. 


Article by Joel Stice, Education World Contributor

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