With their discretionary funds eliminated and their schools’ budgets deflated, city teachers are supplicating strangers to fill in the gaps.
There are 1,793 projects posted by city teachers – mostly from high poverty schools – on DonorsChoose, a website that allows teachers across the country to describe small-scale projects that need funding. The requests paint a depressing picture of what many classrooms are lacking.
There are the occasional requests for cutting edge technology, such as iPads, tablets and digital cameras. And many of the more ambitious projects range from the creative (violins, costumes, wireless microphones) to the healthy (soccer balls, juicers, pedometers) to the icky (fetal pigs, butterfly larvae, composting worms). But most teachers seem to be asking for classroom staples such as pens, paper, and glue.
Here’s what we saw when we checked out DonorsChoose today:
- More than half of all NYC projects relate to literacy and language, a focus of the Department of Education’s this year. Many teachers, hoping to make their reading areas more appealing, are asking for beanbag chairs, rugs, library shelves and books. Ms. Coneys, from Thurgood Marshall Academy in Manhattan, is requesting a class set of “Things Fall Apart” for her students. She writes: “School supplies have become less of a priority, and asking students to go out and buy a book they have never heard of is even more difficult. That being said, it’s apparent that my students have the desire to learn something new.”
- Some basic requests highlight the irony of classrooms that have been gifted with Smart Boards and printers, but lack compatible computers and ink. “What good is having computers if we can’t print the work we just did? We have been blessed with lots of technology in our school, however we struggle to pay for ink cartridges,” Ms. Glembocki, of Brooklyn’s School for Math Science Design and Technology, wrote.
- Threatened arts programs are reaching out for help sustaining their presence in their schools. Ms. Achu from Mott Hall Bridges Middle School in Brooklyn writes: “Art…it’s always the first cut, but the most needed. Our funding limitations didn’t allow us to offer art. We soon realized how necessary this outlet is for kids. Many times they bring the wear and tear from their home lives into a school subject such as art to express themselves in a positive manner.”
- Teachers who want to push their students to the next level are asking for the means to do so. For example, Mr. Murphy’s students at Manhattan’s Frederick Douglass Academy has had a 92 percent pass rate on the AP European History exam but their review books are worn. “Challenges? How about massive budget cuts in an inner-city school that continues to pursue the thoroughly attainable dream of acceptance to a competitive College or University,” Mr. Murphy writes. “Our school is fighting that nearly impossible fight, and going into battle is all the more difficult without the proper weapons.”
- And some teachers, are using their projects to make their students more comfortable during the school day. Ms. Metcalf from P.S. 70 Max Schoenfeld School in the Bronx is requesting healthy snacks for her students. She writes: “Do you know how hard it is to focus on tackling a word problem or writing an essay when you’re hungry? 97% of my students receive free lunch and do not have the means to bring a snack with them every day, and since we eat lunch at 1:50, they depend on healthy snacks to get through the day.”