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Teachers are doing it for themselves

I know this is intended to be an upbeat story, but I can’t help but find it a little depressing.

Some tech-savvy teachers turned to the Web this summer to try to offset the nearly $500 typically spent to ready a classroom for the first day of school.

Numerous Houston-area educators posted pleas on social media sites, including GoFundMe.com, donorschoose.org and Houston-based PledgeCents.com, asking for money for everything from Kleenex to graphing calculators.

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Teachers spend an average of $485 of their own money on supplies for their students and classrooms, according to a 2012-13 study by the National School Supply and Equipment Association. First-year teachers have among the highest expenses, with few resources of their own to get started, experts said.

“We definitely have had a bunch of teachers who have raised funds for basic classroom needs,” said Andyshea Saberioon, CEO and co-founder of PledgeCents.com. “We keep seeing all the ‘back-to-school’ sales going on, but that means that a teacher has to spend money out of their own pocket for those items. So we are seeing more teachers being proactive and raising funds for those supplies for this year.”

In Houston ISD, some teachers are eligible to be reimbursed up to $50 for classroom supplies. The Fort Bend Education Foundation provides its new teachers – about 250 this year – with $100 gift certificates for supplies.

Cypress-Fairbanks ISD, where more than 500 teachers will begin their careers Monday, does not give first-year teachers money to start their classrooms but tries to provide basic supplies such as poster board, pens and sentence strips, spokeswoman Nicole Ray said. Some campuses have parent-teacher organizations that provide teachers gift cards to help offset start-up costs.

You know the old bumper sticker about how it will be a great day when schools are fully funded but the Pentagon has to hold bake sales to be able to buy more bombers? That was the first thing I thought of when I read this. DonorsChoose and others like it are the modern-day bake sale. Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad these organizations exist to help fill the funding gap we’ve created for schools and teachers nationwide. I’m just pointing out that the need that DonorsChoose and its cohort are filling isn’t some accident of nature that we have no choice but to work around. It really would be a great thing if that need didn’t exist.

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