Paper? Pencils? Laptops? Robots? Teachers are increasingly relying on crowdfunding efforts to stock their classrooms with both the mundane and sometimes big-ticket items, reports the AP. Contributions to education campaigns have climbed on GoFundMe and DonorsChoose, from just more than $31.2 million in 2010 to nearly $140 million in 2015. Both sites are on pace to eclipse that in 2016. GoFundMe has collected $58 million in just the last 12 months, and DonorsChoose saw more than 50,000 campaigns live for the first time this back-to-school season. In her first year as an elementary school teacher, Shannon Raftery raised $340 through crowdfunding to supplement the money she took out of each paycheck to pay for classroom supplies. Now in Philadelphia, she's looking to raise $500 for her new kindergarten classroom at Roosevelt Elementary School.
She has a supportive principal, but says there is just not enough money in the notoriously cash-strapped Philadelphia district to equip her classroom. In her case, reality is a $200 budget allocated to cover 25 students in a school where at least 40% of students live in poverty. She has spent that even before the start of classes. "I'd rather spend my own money than have my kids go without something," she said. But even as Raftery pulls $100 to $150 from each paycheck, she knows it won't be enough. She has bought cleaning supplies, bulletin board paper, and peach and sky blue paint for her stark white walls. "I don't want a cold environment to ruin a kid's first impression of school," Raftery said. Donors can scroll through all education campaigns listed on the sites, resulting in millions of dollars' worth of supplies and equipment infused into both high-poverty schools and more affluent districts. "There still is that group of teachers that has amazing ideas even in the most well-funded districts, like the sixth-grade teacher wanting and currently campaigning for an underwater robot to restore fisheries," said Chris Pearsall, DonorsChoose spokesman. (Read more public schools stories.)