There is this great story about the nobility of the teaching profession that goes something like this: "Miss Teacher works for Unnamed School District. On a paycheck that doesn't allow her to own a home in her district, she still scrapes together pennies to buy her students the supplies they need." This is a story repeated throughout the country, and over the years it has become something of a myth, since the conditions are invariably ridiculous and harsh and the salaries have their own level of incredulity. People aren't getting into education for the money. They're getting into education because they want to give back. Most of them don't have any idea that this will include buying colored pencils and binders for their young charges.
That's why charitable entities such as Adopt-A-Classroom and Donors Choose have sprung up. These crowd-funding sites allow teachers to ask for help when it comes time for them to ask someone besides their parents for help when it comes time to buy more playground balls or jerseys for the soccer team. I can speak with some authority when it comes to the balls and the jerseys because I have used these platforms for soliciting funds for those items. At a time when school budgets continue to shrink, there isn't always money left over when a pencil sharpener breaks or when the books that had been held together with tape and glue finally give up the literary ghost.
Sounds like a pretty good deal?
Sure, which is why it becomes even more confounding when you hear that there are school districts that are making it more difficult if not impossible for teachers to use these sites. The finance department from the somewhat ironically named Defiance City School district in Ohio outlines a long, rigorous application for teachers who are interested in crowdfunding supplies. Among the ten required steps are sending a detailed budget, a full supply list and an explanation of how the individual supplies will be used. An email announcing this process adds, “Postings should in no way state or imply that the funds and/or equipment/supplies received through the crowdfunding campaign are necessary in order for students to be appropriately served and educated."
Well, that's kind of the point. I have yet to see a project posted on any of these sites requesting a third grade particle accelerator. Items like fans or independent reading books dominate the list. My entree into this world was a few years back when, on the first day of school, the refrigerator in our staff room stopped working. The concern I was working with was the number of frozen treats that would melt when it came time for teachers to pass them out because we had nowhere to store them. I wasn't asking for more popsicles. I was asking for a place to keep popsicles frozen when teachers bought them and brought them to school to share with their kids. In less than two weeks, a flurry of generous donations along with the infrastructure supplied by Donors Choose allowed us to have a new freezing place as the hot end of the summer dragged on into October.
Sounds like I was implying that the funds received were necessary in order for students to be appropriately served and educated, doesn't it? In Defiance, it probably would.