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Teachers increasingly rely on crowdfunding for classroom supplies

From classroom cleaning supplies to computers for students to use in the classroom, to underwater robots, public school teachers throughout the U.S. are turning to crowdfunding. When government entities can’t provide the funds, teachers increasingly open their own wallets or go online, according to the Associated Press.

A crowdfunded underwater robot for a classroom science project makes the point that even the best-funded schools use crowdfunding. In the majority of instances, however, teachers are looking for help to supply the basics.

In the case of a kindergarten classroom in Philadelphia’s Roosevelt Elementary School, teacher Shannon Raferty has a $200 budget for supplies for the entire school year. Rafferty spends $100 to $150 of her own money from each paycheck, reports the AP,  but it’s not enough. Rafferty is trying to raise $500 through crowdfunding.

Allan Rogers’ third grade class at Jackson Elementary School in Jackson, Louisiana has students who lost everything in the recent floods. Jackson and other teachers in the school are crowdfunding for basic supplies and for classroom computers.

Back in the day when schools or classes wanted to raise money for special events like class trips or new band uniforms, it was common to have car washes, to rake leaves, and to sell anything from wrapping paper and candy to magazine subscriptions. But those strategies don’t work when the school communities are impoverished.

School crowdfunding as a result is increasing. According to the AP, educational crowdfunding campaigns on GoFundMe and DonorsChoose raised $31.2 million in 2010. In 2015 that number grew to almost $140 million and is on track to go even higher in 2016.

DonorsChoose, a crowdfunding site dedicated to supporting classrooms, reportedly has more than 50,000 campaigns for this year’s back-to-school season. Potential crowdfunding donors can look through the sites to make their choice from requests from barely funded schools seeking the most basic supplies to more well-funded districts looking for special project assistance.

According to Michael Leachman, the director of state fiscal research at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, local, state, and federal governments are still catching up post-recession. “It’s obviously disturbing that teachers are having to raise the money that they need to provide good education to kids,” Leachman said.