At first glance, Donors Choose seems helpful. It is great to get the supplies you need, or to pay for a special trip or resource that the DOE would never provide. But something is wrong with a system that depends on teachers to act as fundraisers and grant writers for basic supplies like books, art materials, and even classroom furniture. Not only do we not have the time, but when teachers and families privately and quietly subsidize education, it allows lawmakers to pretend that schools don’t need more money and resources. It also allows them to continue to funnel education funding to testing companies like Pearson and Kaplan instead of putting that money toward supplies that teachers actually need on a day-to day basis.
One sneaky facet of education reform has been shifting the conversation in education away from income inequality and funding to presumed teacher inadequacy. With teachers and families on defense, we’ve stopped talking about how schools in high-income neighborhoods can have millions of extra dollars at their disposal when compared to their low-income counterparts. Not to mention charter networks raising millions each year. We’ve stopped talking about how the state and federal government are underfunding schools. We’ve accepted the dearth of resources so much so that fundraising has reached into every classroom and teachers and their families are quietly subsidizing our education system.
For those of you who don’t know, donors choose is an organization that allows teachers to fund raise for supplies, (while taking a substantial cut for operational costs.) Teachers write mini-grant proposals and then share their “projects” with friends, family and school community members.
This year, I have spent about $1,000 of my own money on my classroom. Additionally, I have raised around $3,000 through Donors Choose for supplies. That is $4,500 of supplies that I needed, that I had to pay for or fund raise for myself. My parents, my friends, and parents of my students all contributed to my projects.
Every teacher I know does what I did this year- spend substantial amounts of their own income and fund raise through donors choose or other similar websites. Teachers use donors choose across the country. In fact, exactly 226,181 teachers have written projects on Donors Choose to raise more than $310,000,000. Yes, teachers have privately raised more than three hundred million dollars nationwide– from their spouses, their parents, their friends and their students.
For many teachers, the reality is that we will continue to raise money for our classrooms and continue to spend our own money on our students. Because we want to give them the best experience possible. But at least, let’s not do it quietly.