The Virginia teachers turning to crowdfunding for school supplies

As the start of the school year approaches, thousands of Virginia teachers have turned to crowdfunding sites to buy necessary school supplies not covered by state and local budgets.

In 2019, Virginia’s funding per student was less than it was before the Great Recession, leaving many teachers struggling to pay for necessary supplies. The average amount spent on each student in Virginia is $10,530, well below the $12,756 national average. 

As a result, teachers are often forced to pay out-of-pocket for classroom supplies.  Ninety-four percent of public educators resort to spending their own money on classroom items according to a federal Department of Education study. However, Virginia teachers are paid significantly less than the U.S. average and often don’t have much free income to spend on their students.

As of publication, there are currently 2,172 Virginia-based fundraisers listed on crowdfunding websites. Six thousand projects have been funded in Hampton Roads alone since 2007, with more than $2.9 million raised.

Some efforts can go viral, but it’s typically hard to gain traction. Many projects on the site remain far away from reaching their stated goals, and several have only one donor despite nearing the deadline to fund their projects.

For example, Ms. Brown, a middle school teacher at Fred M Lynn Middle School in Woodbridge is asking for donations to provide flexible seating space in her English-learner classroom, where three-fourths of the students come from low-income households. She currently only has one donor and is more than $700 away from her goal, with only four days left in her campaign.

Seeing first-hand how she and other educators were struggling to furnish their classrooms with necessities, Texas-based teacher Courtney Jones started the hashtag #clearthelist for teachers to post online. On Twitter, #clearthelistvirginia has seen hundreds of Virginia teachers ask the public for help purchasing items like books, markers, and Kleenex.

The issue remains, however, if teachers should even have to resort to fundraising in their free time just to properly educate their students. Fed up with low pay and reduced budgets, many Virginia teachers marched on the Capitol in January in an effort to receive higher compensation and adequate funding.

“I love my job, I love my kids, and I love going to work every day. But it’s like [the state] is taking advantage of me” Jessica Shim, a fifth-grade teacher in Richmond, said at the protest. “I’m using my own money to support the kids in my classroom.”