Teachers reveal how much they’re spending in classrooms
recep-bg/iStock(NEW YORK) — Due to a lack of resources, teachers across America say they are dipping into their personal funds in order to supply their own classroom needs.
While some are reaching straight into their pockets, others crowdfund in hopes to fulfill these back-to-school necessities.
Courtney Jones, a Texas-based elementary educator, launched a successful hashtag: #clearthelist — a pay it forward initiative which asks the public via social media to help meets simple demands of teachers across the nation.
The movement raised over $85,000 for teachers in need of supplies. It came in the midst of the #RedforEd movement’s launch — where thousands of educators marched at state capitols to demand pay increases and better education funding since 2018.
“If the government isn’t going to support us we are going to support each other,” Jones told ABC News’ Good Morning America. “Teachers are kind, giving and we can have a global community. It’s about taking a negative aspect of our job and turning it into something positive.”
“[The movement] should’ve never existed, but the funding issue is a problem,” she added.
Below, Jones and nine others get candid about what they’ve offered financially, this school year:
Shannon McLoud – Smithfield, Rhode Island
English language arts teacher, drama club leader at a title 1 school.
How much she’s spending: $100
Items bought: plagiarism checker software, books, tissues, bulletin board paper, borders, letters, costumes and props for drama club.
“It’s bewildering,” McLoud told GMA. “Imagine if we treated other professions like this — fire safety personnel that have to buy their own hoses, police officers who had to pay for their own handcuffs[?]”
Changes McLoud would like to see in the system: “Frequently when teachers talk about the realities of their job, we’re met with eye-rolls because of our ‘summer’ or even the occasional, ‘you knew what you were getting into,'” McLoud said. “The truth of the matter is, there isn’t another occupation out there where degree-holding professionals are expected to fill in the gaps. There isn’t a “Donors Choose” for doctors, or law enforcement, and there shouldn’t be.”
“Education is so vital to a successful and thriving society, but for some reason there’s this narrative out there that the tools needed aren’t necessary,” she added. “I also wish people would stop downing teacher unions. Because of my union. I can’t have more than 29 students in a class — that’s a positive thing for my students. Although teacher contracts are filled with things about health benefits, they’re also filled with teaching and learning environments.”
Lacey Henley – Vero Beach, Florida
8th grade science at a title 1 school.
How much she’s spending: more than $500
Items bought: snacks, knee pads for my volleyball players, hand sanitizer, Clorox wipes, tissues, science lab materials.
“I don’t feel resentful because at the end of the day I do it for the kids,” Henley told GMA. “Regardless of whether or not I chose to be a teacher I would still feel the need to help children and their families in need. I will say it does make it difficult to keep up with my purchases on my current salary … My goal at the end of the day is to make my classroom a home that my students will feel comfortable in.”
She added, “Many of my students have experienced some kind of severe trauma in their lives so having that comfortable atmosphere and making sure their basic needs are met is essential if you want them to learn anything.”
Changes Henley would like to see: “I would like to see a change in education that focuses more on the student’s health and well-being instead of focusing on test scores and the bottom line. Taking care of the needs of our communities and families should be first priority.”
“I would also love to see a bigger focus on teaching basic life skills with more CTE courses being offered. In addition, providing classes that cover topics such as balancing a check book, applying for loans, credit scores, managing stress, recognizing and dealing with mental illness, and family planning,” she said.
Audrey Floyd – Safford, Arizona
Language arts and social studies teacher at a title 1 school.
How much she’s spending: “A couple hundred”
Items bought: Art supplies, books, $300 to have her own classroom painted.
“I’m not loaded by any means, but you do what you have to do in order to ensure your students have the best experience possible,” Floyd said.
Changes Floyd would like to see in the system: “Teachers are literally helping to establish the foundation for our future…I would love to see additional funding go to help students receive new textbooks, art programs and supplies, educational field trips and fair pay for the rigorous work teachers put forth all year.”
Jay Barbuto – Phoenix, Arizona
7th and 8th grade language arts teacher at a title 1 school.
How much he’s spending: $650
Items bought: chairs, bulletin boards, pencils, pens, highlighters, storage bins, curriculum materials.
“It makes me feel like I’m not a professional,” Barbuto said.
Changes Barbuto would like to see: “The conversation needs to change,” he said. “Yes, teachers are underpaid. Yes, we live paycheck to paycheck. But more importantly, public education is crumbling in states where funding schools isn’t a priority.”
“Classrooms are under-supplied and overcrowded,” Barbuto added. “Schools are underfunded and becoming more and more vacant. Teachers have the biggest hearts in the world. We’re forgiving and caring. We spend hours upon hours doing what’s best for our students.”
“However, at some point, enough is enough. If there isn’t a systematic change to public education funding, there’s going to be no one left to teach the students of our country,” he said.
Janel Bedor – Appleton, Wisconsin
Library media teacher.
How much she’s spending: $500
Items bought: iPad, books, robot, supplies for classroom centers.
“I don’t love it but do this of my own free will,” Bedor said. “I think it’s important to have what kids need and what’s relevant.”
Changes Bedor would like to see: “School funding is a slippery slope. In Wisconsin, public schools are funded with property tax dollars. The general public has a lot of opinions on how that money is spent,” she said.
“Some people don’t feel that an iPad or a robot is necessary for a good education. I do. Many times it comes down to not agreeing on what is necessary. My district is pretty good about technology spending and my state has a specific coffer for library book budgets for every public school. We are lucky in that way … ideally we would have more funding for mental health, lower class sizes, more classroom supply budget and an awareness that some students can’t afford the basics so the school should be supplying that as well,” she added.
Michelle Olson – Oswego, Illinois
K-5 reading specialist at a title 1 school.
How much she’s spending: $350
Items bought: lamps, bookshelf, fabric for bulletin board, decorations and books.
Changes Olson would like to see in the system: “I would love to see teachers valued in our society,” she said. “Teachers work everyday with students, preparing them for their future. Teachers work hard.”
Stephanie Livesey – Cumberland, Rhode Island
1st grade ESL at a title 1 school.
How much she’s spending: $700
Items bought: stools for flexible seating, books for classroom library, hall pass lanyards, printer ink, paper, draw cart, schedule chart, prize bin items, sensory items, indoor recess activities, and bins to store activities and books.
“For the most part we are given supplies to start the year such as pencils, folders, paper, markers, glue, crayons and scissors … however, it makes me feel like I’m letting my class down knowing I can’t afford all the little things they need,” Livesey told GMA. “There is so much that I could still use to make my classroom a functional, warm and welcoming learning environment but I have three kids of my own and household obligations to tend to.”
Changes Livesey would like to see: “Many people know that teachers are responsible for educating our future, although investments are going into new curricula, testing and initiatives. If that money went into our classrooms to ensure we have all that is required for a successful learning environment, then teachers wouldn’t feel the obligation to spend their own money.”
“The clear the list initiative has been able to bring together many teachers from all over coming together to help each other. This shows we think of our classrooms and our students all the time and want what would best benefit their learning experiences,” she said.
Lisa Kling – Phoenix, Arizona
Head Start teacher for low income-based pre-kindergarten.
How much she’s spending: more than $100
Items bought: dry erase markers, material for housekeeping center.
“It’s a mixed bag. When I do it, it’s because I know it’ll benefit my students, but then I’m sacrificing something for me and my daughter,” Kling told GMA, adding this will be her last year teaching. “It’s a constant battle.”
She added, “Many of my students have experienced some kind of severe trauma in their lives so having that comfortable atmosphere and making sure their basic needs are met is essential if you want them to learn anything.
Changes Kling would like to see: “For the state of Arizona I want the funding restored back into the classrooms,” she said. “There’s still about 8 billion dollars that hasn’t been given back. That’s what the #RedforEd movement was all about.”
Courtney Jones – Tyler County, Texas
Teaches 4th grade math and gifted and talented, grades 3-5 at a title 1 school.
How much she’s spending: $200
Items bought: supplemental curriculum through Critical Thinking Company, Prufrock Press, and TeachersPayTeachers.com.
“This year, #clearthelist has supported my classroom so well! So, I’ve spent roughly $200 this year instead of my usual $500-plus,” Jones said. “My first year teaching I spent over $1500. I understand having to buy some items, but having to spend hundreds of dollars a year to supplement is outrageous.”
Changes Jones would like to see: I would love to see school boards, local and federal governments bring the issue of lack of resources for teachers and students to the floor. We need policy to reflect the needs of our students and teachers. This requires bringing up-to-date textbooks, manipulatives and materials into the classroom to reflect modern educational research and needs,” she said.
Bryan Henley – Vero Beach, Florida
Computer technology teacher at a title 1 middle school.
How much he’s spending: $500
Items bought: snacks, project/classroom supplies.
“Most of my students come to school having not eaten breakfast and snacks help get them through the day,” Henley said.
“I would love to teach my students how to screen print designs or create video games, however, the equipment [and] software [are] too expensive for me to pay out of pocket for and the school is unable to provide it … my classroom has 34 outdated desktop computers with one black and white printer. For a technology class, this is often very insufficient for our needs … At the end of the day I may not spend as much money as your everyday core class teacher but money is a huge hindrance in my ability to teach my kids,” he added.
Changes Henley would like to see: “I wish that we could receive a stipend prior to the school year starting to offset the cost,” he said. “I want all of my students to have the skills to go out into the world and have a direct impact on their communities and society as a whole. Paying for major supplies and equipment would be the first step to this pathway.”
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