AUSTIN (KXAN) — The number of schools benefiting from crowdfunding websites is rising — a lecturer at Texas State University found — and one kind of school is most successful at rallying community members to support teachers with donations.
Last fall, Dr. Brett Lee defended his doctoral dissertation, which focused on the teacher crowdfunding site DonorsChoose. Lee also coordinates the Austin Independent School District’s mentor program.
As of Thursday, there were 116 total projects seeking funding in Austin — teachers asked for donations to provide flexible classroom seating, a single iPad and new books. One AISD teacher sought $165 to provide snacks so her students can focus.
“It’s sad but true that a Quaker granola bar or Goldfish can make a difference,” Lee said.
In the time he’s studied the site, from 2016 to this year, Lee found the percentage of schools in the U.S. whose teachers created crowdfunding projects rose from 74% to 82%.
It levels the playing field, he said, which is most evident for Title 1 schools — those with high proportions of low-income families. Those schools, he found, have the highest success rate on the site.
“It’s a matter of social justice,” Lee said. “Teachers have a bend towards seeing that their classrooms have the same supplies, the same opportunities and the same experiences as students in other parts of their town.”
Crowdfunding is not the only way teachers buy additional classroom materials; often, the costs come out of their own pockets.
A study released last year found 94% of teachers spend their own money to outfit their classrooms and spend an average of about $500 a year to do it. That’s one reason retail chain Target is bringing back its 15% off coupon for teachers to use on supplies; the promotion starts Saturday, July 13, and runs until July 20.
They’ll have more to spend after the state legislature passed school finance reform this past session, prompting pay raises at a number of central Texas districts.
The reform is also pushing millions more dollars to local schools, but districts aren’t sure how much they’ll be getting.
Lawmakers released estimates for how much districts could expect once House Bill 3 passed, but the Texas Tribune reports some administrators are now finding the total to be considerably less than they expected.
Georgetown ISD expected $10.3 million in additional funds, for example, but a recent district analysis shows the total to be less than $6 million. Rough estimates from Austin ISD, on the other hand, anticipates an additional $88 million in state funding, a little bit more than lawmakers calculated before the bill passed.
Regardless of funding increases, most districts will still not be able to pay for everything teachers are paying for now, and that’s why Lee believes crowdfunding will continue to be a popular and necessary avenue.
Lee says that last year, Texans donated about $15 million to schools on DonorsChoose alone, and that total has only been growing since the site was founded 19 years ago.
“It’s a way of teachers expressing their agency to enact what school districts cannot do,” he said.