Last year, a survey by the federal Department of Education found that 94 percent of U.S. public school teachers pay for classroom supplies out of pocket, without reimbursement, and that they spend an average of nearly $500 a year doing so.
Purchase by teachers range from printer paper to specialized books for classroom libraries to student desks. They do this on salaries that constantly stay well below state averages. For instance, in Seattle, Washington, the average salary of a high school teacher is between $30,000 and $50,000 a year, while the baseline for what could be considered a comfortable life (necessities, including rent and healthcare, totaling below 70 percent of income) in the same city is $72,000 a year.
Like many people in today’s pressed economy, teachers often turn to crowdfunding. DonorsChoose.org, a crowdfunding platform specifically designed for educators, was founded in 2000 by a teacher who once had to make 30 pirate copies of Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder for his students because his school wouldn’t cover them.
Office Depot examined over a million successful fundraising projects on DonorsChoose.org to see what teachers needed most. Classroom technology came in the highest, with requests totaling over $250 million. Tablets and laptops were the most requested devices, specifically. Books reached $120 million, just half of that.
The number of requests by teachers for technology-related items reached a record high in 2018, with more than 50,000 project requests. The top subjects requesting technology as a percentage of resources included math (40 percent), applied sciences (38 percent), English as a second language (33 percent), literature and writing (29 percent), and history and geography (28 percent).
Another interesting and important finding in the report was teachers raising funds to expand their own education, specifically into technology. They need to know it to teach it, after all.
Some commentators paint these classroom technology requests as teachers asking for toys they don’t need, but technology is a vital part of modern education. Students will graduate into a world where invention is happening at the speed of thought, and they need to be prepared to participate.