Teachers Change Lives

Teachers Change Lives

This post is brought to you by Office Depot’s #TeachersChangeLives program. Register your child’s classroom, so the students have the school supplies they need to succeed.

Can we talk some more about public schools today? They’re on my mind. Last month a vacuum was unexpectedly delivered to my house (long story, I’ll tell you about it another time). While it’s always fun to get a surprise in the mail, the vacuum sat unopened in a box for many days while I figured out what to do with it. Why? Because we don’t need a new vacuum — the one we had when we lived in Colorado still works just fine.

Happily, Betty brought home a class newsletter that mentioned her teacher was looking for a vacuum for their classroom. Bingo! I dropped the brand new vacuum off at her classroom the next day, glad it could benefit dozens of kids for many years to come.

But the experience had me thinking. If I hadn’t had that vacuum sitting in a box by the front door, would I have even noticed that request on the newsletter? (Answer: I highly doubt it.)

At the start of the year, our teachers in New York, Colorado, France and now California, had students bring in school supplies, plus some general classroom supplies too — like tissue boxes and hand soap. I think this is pretty typical and I imagine that if you have school age kids you have experienced the same thing.

In New York and Colorado, that was basically it as far as school supplies went. We never really had further requests from teachers. I’m not talking about class parties or special events, I’m referring to the everyday school supplies — folders, pencils, markers, erasers, paper, etc..

But here in Oakland, it’s been a little different. Some teachers have sent home additional requests throughout the year via class newsletters or emails. Things like sticky notes, permanent markers, more tissue boxes, more pencils. Of course, we try to keep an eye out for the requests and try to remember to send materials in — and I know many families at our school try to as well. But sometimes I forget. Or sometimes I assume another family has taken care of it. Or sometimes I just don’t make time.

AAC Infographic-3

And the reality is, even if I don’t want to face it, that many of those school supply requests aren’t met. And that means teachers often end up spending from their own pockets. Which should not be happening! But surveys tell us this is so common that at this point, it’s almost ridiculous. For those of you who like stats and numbers, try these on:

– Teachers spend as much as $1000 out of their own pockets on materials for their classrooms, every year.
– 75% of all classroom supplies are bought by teachers.
– Nationally, teachers spend a total of $1.3 billion a year on classroom supplies.
– 15 Million school children come from improvised families that cannot even provide basic supplies that children need to succeed in school.

Shocking, right? So I’ve been wondering how I could be more helpful. Or somehow make it more straightforward. Then Office Depot sent me an email about their Teachers Change Lives program and a I had another Bingo! moment. Clearly, I’m not the first person who noticed this problem. There’s a great program already in place! Public schools across America are having a hard time. Funding for supplies has been cut. And teachers often make up the difference from their own pockets. So Office Depot has partnered with Adopt a Classroom, and they are helping teachers across the country.

It’s a super smart program. Basically, your child’s teacher can register his or her classroom, then the community (parents of students, aunts & uncles, even grandparents who live out of state) funds the classroom, and those who donate receive updates on their impact!

To highlight this program Office Depot & Adopt a Classroom are featuring the stories of educators throughout the U.S. that go above and beyond in the classroom. These stories range from teachers in underprivileged and underfunded schools, to teachers that take innovation in the classroom to the next level, and everything in between. With teachers already doing so much with so little, think how much more they could do with support from the community. Go here and scroll down to see all the videos — they’re really well done, they had me in tears!

Did you watch that? I mean come one. Mary Kurt-Mason should not have to pay for school supplies from her own pocket! You can make a difference by visiting the Teachers Change Lives page. In fact, all of the teachers shown in the videos are registered with Adopt A Classroom. So you can donate to their classroom, or you can donate to a teacher in your own life, or even to the cause as a whole.

And now I’d love to hear, what’s it like at your school? Do teachers make school supply requests of parents? Do you feel like the statistics I listed above are accurate for your community? Have you ever heard of Adopt-A-Classroom? Is your child’s classroom registered? And if you’re a teacher, let us know how often, if ever, you find yourself buying school supplies for your classroom.

P.S. — I care a lot about this topic (maybe because my dad was a public school teacher) and want to encourage conversation and awareness about it, so here’s some extra motivation: add to the conversation below, and I’ll randomly pick one commenter and personally make a $150 donation to their child’s classroom!

107 thoughts on “Teachers Change Lives”

  1. This is neat! My sons Kindergarten teacher is amazing. I would love for her to win this. I always wonder how much the teachers do pay for things themselves.

  2. I like in mid-Missouri and work at an elementary school as a facilitator (I work one-on-one with a kid with special needs). I’ve been hired to teach second grade at the same school next year. I don’t know the exact numbers, but my district does have a decent percentage of kiddos who can’t afford fall’s school supplies (or breakfast, lunch, etc.). We have boxes to hand out to those kiddos. I think there’s a little bit of paperwork involved for the parents re: income, but it’s minimal. Since I haven’t had my own classroom yet, I don’t know the full extent to which teachers buy supplies for their own classroom, but there’s so much that might not even occur to parents–Classroom libraries come out of teacher’s pockets. I’m trying to load up on books for next year, and I’ll be going to Salvation Army and garage sales hoping to find some because, yikes, I need a few hundred books! Classroom decor, special treats, and, yes, soooooo many pencils are usually bought with the teacher’s own money. Teachers occasionally put a note in their weekly newsletters about needing pencils or tissues, but most parents in our school’s area either aren’t involved enough to read those requests or can’t afford to help much.

  3. I loved the vacuum story! I was actually one of your dad’s students in 6th grade. :) Teachers are amazing!

  4. Thank you for this! As a special education teacher, especially my first few years of teaching (when I was building up a classroom) I spent thousands of dollars out of pocket for my classroom. I have many students who are homeless, have special needs parents themselves, and are living in severe poverty. I am forever thankful for my community because through posts on NextDoor, Freecycle and Craigslist we are able to get them clothes and supplies that they need at home. Until you are in these schools working with these families you don’t realize how many are still slipping through the cracks.

  5. This post got me thinking about the post you wrote in the fall about public HS in Oakland. I think you where going to do something similar about the elementary/middle school. Did I miss it? I am so interested. I live in an urban area with not great schools and spend a small fortune on private. Would love to hear more about your experience.

    PS if this comment wins please select another I’d rather it went to a public school.

  6. we live in oakland too and parents are asked to provide money as well as donations for classroom supplies, everything from paper towels, to snacks, , rugs, etc… wondering if your kids schools have had their yearly auctions. that’s also a big part of public education, the private fundraising involved to raise money to provide classes such as art, music, pe!

    1. Auctions often seem like a good idea for those who can afford to go and pay for vacations in Tahoe, instant wine cellars, etc. However, auctions can be incredibly divisive in truly diverse school communities as they highlight the difference between the haves and the have nots, and this creates resentment. Schools that hold successful auctions in Oakland raise hundreds of thousands of dollars for children who are not actually needy, because they are not poor–their parents are people who have hundreds of thousands of dollars to spend at an auction). They then use this money to pay for necessities, but also to pay for things like professional lice-pickers who come monthly, and computer carts that sit unused, while in the same district, down the hill, poor schools struggle to pay for adequate lunchtime supervision or a one-day-a-week librarian. Schools with high percentages of low-income students cannot hold auctions because they a) are unable to have parents and the community donate high-value items (because they don’t have time-shares in Maui) and b) don’t have families who can pay for high-value items, because they are not rich. No schools should have to have auctions. Our government should fund public schools adequately, no matter where they are located. I wish the rich families holding auctions would use their expertise and power to lobby Sacramento to fully fund ALL public schools. Think about how much time and energy we would have if the burden of fundraising was lifted from public school parents, and placed back on society as a whole. We all benefit from a well-educated public!

      1. i, too, live in oakland, and my oldest daughter is in kinder at a public oakland school. i have contributed as i can to her school and classroom, and it isn’t a hills school, but not a flatlands school either. there is no way my nieghborhood school (i live in east oakland and that school is one block away but my daughter goes to a middle of the road school through options process and bc of her hearing loss) anyway, i wish our oakland schools did what san leandro schools do! pool any money raised to be distributed equally to level the playing field. it would take a whole lot of work to happen, bc then wealthier schools would lose a lot of resources and would have to share them. but i often wrestle with the “extras” our school has: garden, science, art, etc that my school one block away does not. that school doesn’t even have a pta. it is supported through my neighborhood group, but few of the parents are involved. it seems like an ongoing problem here, and my heart breaks for schools where there is so little additional money for supplemental basics! i do think one solution is for more families to STAY in the public school system in our district and work/advocate towards change instead of leaving for private or charter schools. what if we all stayed and invested? it would change this district. (i recognize that our child is not in our neighborhood school which is one of the issues in oakland, but if she was not deaf then we would’ve likely strongly considered sending her there.) and gabrielle- to answer your question, all of my siblings and my mom are teachers and they ALL put so much money into their classrooms! Such generous hearts.

  7. This sounds like a great program!! I had not heard of it, but had often thought about the likely need even though teachers at my children’s school only do the typical beginning-of-the-year requests. I always try to pick up extras to donate to my kids’ teachers then (when the school supplies are all on sale everywhere!), and to a nearby university that collects school supplies along with hats and gloves every winter.

    I actually wish that our teachers had a public wish list on the school website or something, or did send notes home…I would like to donate more when I could, but it is definitely one of those things that slip off the radar most of the year.

  8. This sounds like a great program! My teacher friends have had good luck with a similar website called Donors Choose – so nice to see strangers supporting teachers!

  9. We use sign up genius. A request comes out about once a month. Title 1 school in Brooklyn. And the classroom needs are always ALWAYS met by parents. You have to rush to snag a donation or they’re all gone.

  10. I taught in a public school in Durham, North Carolina for 3 years. We had an extremely meager budget each year and I spent a good amount of my own money to buy everything from books to pencils to snacks for kids who didn’t have any.

    With all the things we ask of our teachers, this shouldn’t be one of them.

  11. What a wonderful program. My husband and I are both high school art teachers in the same school district and while we have a generous budget we still purchase lots of items for both of our classrooms. We also try to actively support our son’s school/classroom (he is in second grade) by doing the same things that you mentioned: picking up extra items on sale, sending in extra wipes throughout the year to his art teacher, etc. You can check us out at http://www.facebook.com/shhsart

  12. I actually don’t have a child in school but my husband teaches 5th grade and i can personally attest to how much we spend on school supplies. He is always purchasing folders, notebooks, pencils, storage supplies. It’s really endless in some ways. Thank you so much for bringing attention to this!

  13. I loved this teacher’s story! I especially love that her program is called “Special Talents” vs. Special Needs! I am a pediatric physical therapist in the Chicago area and spend about $1,000 annually for my patients in the clinic (or my students in the schools when I worked in a school.) I buy everything from diapers to winter coats plus specialized equipment that I think might be outside of a family’s budget, like a brace or adaptive scissors. My family and I decided those funds would be a part of my work budget. It is a stretch financially but it is very rewarding to help out where I can. At my children’s school the teachers send out emails when they need something and they have put a “Job Board” on their website so parents can check that to see if there is something they can donate (like a vacuum!) or if there is a project for which they can volunteer time or special resources.

  14. I teach in northern VA, I taught 2 years in public and now in my 2nd year private. Surprisingly enough we got a lot more money to spend in the public school, taxes I guess! In my private school we have generous parents who send in supplies like paper towels and wipes but I still find myself shopping for books and project supplies. I spent a ton my first year but now that I’m in my 4th it’s a little easier to handle.

  15. I have multiple family members who are teachers and my heart breaks every time I think of this terrible truth! I’m embarrassed by it! My go to donation right now is wet wipes – with a baby at home and frequent requests from my elementary child’s classroom it’s an easy thing I have on hand. Sometimes it’s just about sending in what you have while you’re thinking about it! Bravo on the vacuum and for making an effort to support all the dedicated teachers out there.

  16. We have garage sales periodically to lighten the load of our stuff, and when we moved 2.5 years ago, we had the mother of all garage sales. It was a great time to move and sell things because our kids were 15 and 12 and we took the opportunity to get rid of all but the most sentimental toys, games, puzzles, gadgets, and gear from their earlier childhoods. Lots of teachers came to this sale and we did not charge them for items they were going to use in their classrooms. One teacher was ecstatic about the basket of 100+ Matchbox cars, another loved the little kids’ musical instruments, yet another couldn’t believe her luck finding puzzles with all the pieces. And then we sent literally hundreds of books to schools and the local branch of our public library. So many things we all have can be educational in the right hands and have a lot of life left in them, so I encourage your readers to ask their schools if they can use them after their kids leave that particular stage. (Asking is key – nothing is worse than an unnecessary or not suitable “gift” taking up space.) Of course, these things are not pencils or sticky notes, but they can add depth and enrichment to a classroom.

  17. I am a former teacher, and my husband teaches 4th grade. I also have 2 daughters-Kindergarten and 1st grade. I have experienced this as both a parent and a teacher. It is great that you had a vacuum to send! It can be rough making sure that all students have their needs met.

  18. Same here! A couple of months ago (during peak cold season) we were in Target walking near the huge wall of facial tissue. I grabbed some small packs I carry in my purse and my 2nd grader said “we need some big boxes.” I said “nope, we have plenty at home.” And he said “we need them
    In my class. We have to blow noses in those stuff, brown, recycled paper towels.” Took me a back that he and his classmates had pretty basic needs not being met. It was our pleasure to buy a big multipack and leave them anonymously on his teachers desk. I would def. buy things from a registry.

  19. Our situation is a little different – we homeschool. That said, I can certainly attest to the costs of educational supplies, as I have to track down and purchase every item we use for our schooling. My sister works in early childhood education in our local school and I have witnessed how much of her own funds she uses to get quality resources. Whatever the scenario, it certainly takes resources to provide quality materials! It would be so discouraging to be unable to get the materials needed.

  20. As a teacher and a mom of school aged kids, I thank you for this post. I think many parents are unaware of what their children’s classrooms need. I buy many supplies for my classroom, including tissues. I mention tissues because they are a health concern. Can you imagine unwiped, drippy noses? Or, if we do not have tissues in the classroom, kids ask to go to the bathroom missing valuable time in class. it sounds minor, but those minutes of lost instructional time add up.

  21. I am constantly donating to my kids classrooms and to the CONSTANT pleas for fundraising from our PTA (seriously, I send in a $50 check *to each classroom* just about every month).

    I hate to be the devil’s advocate, but there is a tipping point. I’m just about at the point where I want someone to start cutting programs or extras and instead try to spend within their budget! Everyone’s story (of course) is about the desperate need for soft tissues, but our district finds the funds to build a new pair of basketball gyms even though they can’t seem to afford pencils in the 2nd grade. There is enough money for every child to have two copies of every text book (one for home and one for school, no kidding, for 5 classes for both my junior high and high school students) but the PTA still begs for pennies to help fund the part-time library aide. What is that?

    I really believe they depend on donations for essential items like tissues and pencils instead of allocating more of the budget for these items because they know teachers and parents will pay for it and thus they keep the rest of the funds for whatever pet projects or technology gizmo they want. Why else does there seem to be money for some items but not for the basics?

    To be clear, this does not keep me from donating, but after 11 years in three different states in various public schools districts, I am one suspicious parent.

    (PS: California is by far the most offensive in this regard. They overspend in the most absurd ways and plead poverty in the most persistent and egregious manner.)

      1. You are lucky to have children attending schools in a district that can pay for extras. I have taught in ten different Bay Area schools over the past two decades and three of those schools were in extremely wealthy areas, and sound quite similar to what you are describing. Parents in those districts complained about being asked for money too often, but being asked for money because you can afford to give is not such a bad problem to have.

        The other schools I have taught in are desperately poor. No computers, no library, no “extras”. In one school I was told to find my own furniture. I have in fact bought or found my own file cabinets, chairs, TVs, and DVD players, and have supplied numerous other smaller items. There are schools that are truly poor. No one there donates anything. Yearly PTA budgets (if there is a PTA) may be $2,000 at the most. It is hard to believe these schools exist if you don’t teach in one or have your children attend one. It’s not a matter of budgeting better. It is because Prop 13 decimated school funding and only those schools in wealthy areas have been able to make up the difference through fundraising and local property tax measures.

    1. Magpie Lovely I feel the the same as you most of the time…it is hard for me to watch others spend money frivolously! And I have a hard time with PTO $$ requests every week! I have tried to keep an open mind (I don’t know a lot of the behind the scenes stuff) as well as try to not feel quilty that I can’t offer/donate more. I struggle with it!

  22. Just this morning I received the weekly email from my daughters 4th grade teacher with the request that they were in need of white board markers. I think i noticed it myself too because I have an extra pack in my desk drawer that I will send with her tomorrow. I hadn’t heard of the program before, but think it is a great idea to be able to buy things off a registry. My 2 kids go to a charter school and have great teachers, and a parental support system. But unless they ask I feel that I don’t think about it. I feel sad for those kids that have to go without or teachers that have to spend there own money. I love that your bringing awareness to this!

  23. My kids had very different lists this year. My daughter is in h.school and on the block system, so each block the teachers may or may not ask for a few items for the classroom and usually suggest the type supplies each student should use personally. It sounds minimal, but one necessity casually mentioned was a graphing calculator. There’s $150 alone. I know that the socioeconomic indicators of our area would lead the school to assume that wouldn’t be a problem for anyone, but I think you can’t always judge a person’s current job/life/financial status by their zip code. I remember wondering how many folks gasped when they googled that one.

    My son is in a charter school and they definitely still have the extensive supply list at the beginning of the year. It’s divided into required and optional, with optional being the bigger items for the classroom that you can contribute if you’d like. Off the top of my head, I recall those being things like cushions for the reading center, sports equipment for recess, snacks for the snack cafe, etc.

    During the year, we get small, specific requests as things come up; plants for the class garden, iron filings for a polarity experiment, materials for papier mache, etc. I know that even so, the teachers spend their own money in all kinds of ways.

    I wasn’t familiar with Adopt-A-Classroom. I can’t tell if my kids’ classrooms are on there. The only way I see to access a classroom list is to first make a sufficient donation. I guess if they haven’t mentioned it, they probably aren’t. Thanks for bringing to our attention!

  24. just want to comment to say wow! that video! the power of a teacher is truly amazing….the gifts she (and so many others teachers) is giving her students is so very moving. so glad you shared.

  25. Thank you for highlighting this topic. So much of what we hear in the media about teachers is negative, but NOT when you ask individual parents. Most parents still hold teachers in high regard after witnessing the miracles and smiles they create for our children. As a parent I appreciate all the weekends spent grading papers, time spent on Pinterest looking for ‘cute’ motivation ideas, and the ways my children’s’ teachers help them become better humans, not just better students. As a teacher, I know the sacrifices made (time away from our own families, money spent on hungry students, and too-often purchases of those ‘just right’ books to hook reluctant readers) that, while expensive, are never regretted.

  26. My sons Kindergarten teacher is fantastic and invests so much of herself into her class. She utilizes Donors Choice to help her buy large items for her class. She requests smaller items in her newsletter. I think programs that help teachers are so important.

  27. Thanks for writing about this! Another really great organization is donorschoose.org. They provide an easy way for people to help teachers at low income schools with specific items or projects for class. As a Chicago Public Schools teacher, I had a grant funded through donorschoose.org that allowed us to purchase disposable cameras and voice recorders for my high school newspaper class. Because of the supplies (which really motivated my students!) we were able to publish the school’s first newspaper in over a decade.

  28. I really never comment on blogs, but had to on this one. Love to see you bringing awareness to this! My babes are not in public school yet, but my parents are both teachers. My mom teaches elementary, and my dad high school. They both have a high percentage of kids living in poverty. My dad is an art teacher, and for years he has taken portraits for the the formals and put that money back into his art program to take kids to SFMOMA. For some kids it is the first time they have ever taken a trip somewhere. There are many other stories I could tell you of my parents going above and beyond for their kids. But the sad part is that they are getting old, and getting really warn out. We need programs like these to help boost are teachers up and let them know we support them and care about the work they do for our kids!

  29. I had not heard of this program, but love the idea! For me, as a “long-distance” grandmother of a soon-to-be-kindergartener, I’m excited to be able to participate at least a little from a distance.

  30. Our son goes to a public charter here in New Orleans. At the start of every school year, we’re given a list of supplies to buy. There are some things that are more kid-specific supplies. And then there are the more shared supplies – like soap and tissues and paper towels – that are also on the lists. I’m sure his teachers unfortunately still buy a ton of stuff. Even with having Amazon wishlists that are intended to help keep the classroom needs met.

  31. The sign in the first picture is so inspiring and beautiful, I want yo recite it to my son as he leaves for school in the morning. Teachers do so much more than teach ABCs. They mold our children and create our future leaders. Thank you got highlighting education and our teachers…they deserve the highest praise.

  32. I used to balk at the supply lists, but teachers paying for supplies from their own pockets is unacceptable. I try to respond to requests in whatever way I can. Thanks for the reminder.

  33. Wow! We are just about to start out on our public education journey with my daughter starting kindergarten next year. This has opened my eyes and made me realize how it is so important to support our teachers in what seems like such a small way.

  34. We live in one of the “richest counties in the country” according to several studies, yet we receive a pretty lengthy school supply list each year for each of my children. Then throughout the school year, we do receive periodic requests to replenish supplies that have run out. It makes me wonder what happens in school districts elsewhere–we have a Smart Board in every classroom, but my daughter’s 4th grade teacher just requested more pencils. (Thank you for the reminder, going to the store tomorrow.) It makes me feel like priorities here are a little skewed, and that in other districts with much smaller school budgets, things are probably even worse. I’ll be sending this info along to all 5 of the teachers who are teaching my children this year, thank you for the info!

  35. As my boys have gone through elementary school, I’ve been so grateful for good and kind and generous teachers. Our supply lists, thankfully, are minimal (until middle school!). I have many teacher friends—and I know they supplement their meager budgets out-of-pocket. I often send books to add to their classroom libraries, because I know how important it is to read stories that speak to you.

  36. I am a second grade teacher in Compton, CA and I can fully vouch for what you are describing. I am thankful that I have found resources like DonorChoose.org over the years because with a family of my own I could not afford to keep my classroom supplied. My church has donated crayons and markers to my class. This year we ran out of paper, glue, and pencils. What?? I am serious. So I had students bringing in loose sheets gathered from their houses and that is embarrassing. Parents ask “are you serious?” or “why doesn’t the school have these items?” My school does not supply tissue, wipes, hand sanitizer, and other items that one would assume comes in a classroom.
    I have asked my son’s kindergarten teacher, who has been teaching longer than me, for advice. She will say things like “budget” or “don’t be afraid to ask.” When she asks we try to help, knowing it all makes a difference.
    Thanks for the post and the continued conversation around public schools.

    1. “My church has donated crayons and markers to my class. This year we ran out of paper, glue, and pencils. What?? I am serious. So I had students bringing in loose sheets gathered from their houses and that is embarrassing.”

      So sad! :(

  37. Thanks for posting about this. it does remind me that I promised my son’s kindergarten teacher bandaids and forgot to send them.
    We didn’t have a very long school supply list this year and have only been asked for a few things since such as paper towels and wipes BUT as another person posted I also get a bit fed up with the PTA constantly ‘fund raising’. I appreciate all they are doing and my children go to a great public school, but they seem to ask for donations every month for something else and I don’t know how the money is being used.
    On another note, I have at least 1,ooo pens in a box at my house. My husband travels constantly for work and is always bringing home pens from hotels, conferences and the like. I keep them because I hate to throw away anything that can still be used but I don’t know what to do with them. any suggestions on where I could send them? I am sure there are many families out there that could use a good supply of pens for the school year and I feel like I am hoarding them.

  38. As a teacher and as a mother, I have to say, I feel your public school posts are right on! I had tears reading this post. We spend so much of our own money on our students so that we can teach thoughtful and engaging lessons, or even just so they can take notes and blow their noses! Thank you so much for supporting public schools!

  39. To think that my kids’ teachers spend part of their underpaid salary to buy basics for their classes is humbling. Would love to encourage them in a way like this!

  40. There’s an org in the bay area called RAFT – Resource Area For Teaching (www.raft.net), that accepts donations of office supplies or surplus materials from corporations and then repurposes them into cheap or free hands-on activity kits for classrooms. Super cool place. All of my friends who are teachers have gone there for help with supplies.

  41. Mostly, we’ve had the same type of supply requests. Crayons, pencils, tissues, etc… We live in a poor area (I’m pretty sure it’s the lowest paying school in Arkansas) and I know there are a lot of students who’s families can’t give so I try to make sure and buy what’s requested. I love the idea of adopting a classroom. Especially in towns like ours, I think this could have a huge impact. Thank you for bringing this program to the public eye. My sister was a teacher for several years and I know she funded the majority of her classrooms needs right from her own pocket. (She taught at the school my children are currently attending.) I would love to also make a donation to the classroom you choose. Is there a way for me to do that?

  42. My twins are in kindergarten and both of their teachers ask for items fairly regularly in their newsletters. It is usually small items like snacks, tape, glue, etc. I try to fulfill their requests as often as I can. I also volunteer in the classroom and one of the teachers has mentioned to me that she often buys things out of her own pocket. I am sure that both teachers spend a considerable amount on books, decorations, and other things they need to make their classrooms interesting and engaging. This just seems crazy to me! Our country needs to invest more in education. We live in Colorado and every time there is a ballot issue to increase education funding it is defeated. This needs to stop – schools are important!

  43. Teachers are spending money on more than just school supplies…so much of the supplemental curriculum is also purchased by teachers. Some teachers have even paid for field trips for their kiddos.

    And to the commenter who noted that schools seem to have money for a gymnasium, but not for a library aide…a little clarification: school expenses are not paid from one fund. There are multiple funds and multiple budgets within one school building, and most of the time you are not allowed to borrow from one to pay for something else. New gymnasiums come from a building fund — you can’t pull from those funds to pay an employee’s salary. Lots of rules regarding allocation of funds.

    1. I know that it’s all about allocation and ultimately, politics. The root of the issue is not donating more to the classroom, no matter the source, and in fact our generosity may be causing the funding inefficiencies. That is my point. I believe the root of this problem is simply not a lack of resources, it’s the unwillingness to meet the most important, basic needs of our kids in public schools in favor of less important programs and technology. I just don’t believe that a smart board is a necessary accessory for learning. Why does every classroom in my elementary school have a smart board and three dormant computers and yet teachers are constantly begging me for Kleenex?

  44. Just to add to the conversation. I teach at a public university (a big one) as adjunct faculty. Because I am not tenure-track faculty I do not have any access to the copy room, the printers, the supplies that are there – anything I bring in to my students I have to make or print on my own and pay for out of pocket.
    The numbers are staggering at the K-12 level, but sadly it does not improve at the post-12 level either. Where are the priorities? So much talk about the importance of education, but where is the support?

  45. I’ve been out of public school for a while and don’t have school aged kids yet, but it seems so crazy to me that teachers do not have budgets for simple classroom supplies!! My sister is a public high school teacher so I’d have you donate to her classroom. I love how supportive you are on your blog of public schools.

  46. We’re also public schools in Oakland- elementary and middle. It’s crazy how much our schools need. Vacuums- yep that’s not unusual at all. Rugs, sure. Chairs? Really there aren’t enough chairs? Our PTA is right now researching a new copier for the teachers – super crazy expensive!

    But it’s all so worth it! I’d rather give money to our super diverse Oakland public schools — it’s a great investment since so many kids can benefit and enjoy those clean rugs and sharp pencils! Plus I can’t wait to see all the teacher-selfies posing in front of their new copier. ;)

    Thanks for posting on such an important topic!

  47. My mom has been a teacher for many years, and I am currently in college to get a dual degree in childhood education and art education. I grew up in a small, rural town in the poorest county in New York State. Our school is currently facing decisions due to a $2 million deficit- this is the 7th year we have made pretty drastic cuts. The budget is currently frozen, which means teachers cannot purchase anything, which is likely to continue into next year, in addition to position cuts, program cuts, etc. My mom already spends a lot on her classroom, I can’t imagine how much more she’ll need to spend next year. Unfortunately, we have few parents able/willing to donate things. And yet, New York State had a budget surplus this year- we need to start supporting education more!

  48. With almost a year under our belt in our new home, I’ll never forget the unexpected surprise accompanying our small, country school of the two-columned, page long list of required school supplies. I still remember the first day of school this year and 5 of our kids carrying bags upon Target bags of supplies. The thing is, the teachers couldn’t believe they actually brought them in. And requests still come home listing ongoing needs. Our children’s school without a doubt qualifies as underprivileged and underfunded. What a wonderful program to know about! I’m excited and hopeful about letting our teachers know :)

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