Classroom expenses got you down?

Are Out-of-Pocket Classroom Expenses Dragging You Down? A Helping Hand May Be Just a Click Away

You Get Out of It What You Put Into It

Keeping your body in shape and keeping your personal budget in shape have a couple of things in common. Both are a struggle to stay on top of, and both are a matter of input and output. If you want a lean body, cut back on the food and crank up the exercise. If you want a fat wallet, increase the revenue and decrease the expenses. It’s pretty simple math.

While physical fitness is more a matter of willpower, fiscal fitness is another issue. It’s one thing to say no to the Krispy Kremes in the lounge and say yes to a stop at the gym (in spite of the stack of ungraded papers on the passenger seat), but when times are tight, you can’t just say no to your bills, and simply saying “Yes, please!” to more money doesn’t mean it’s going to show up in your account.

It helps when you don’t have to go it alone. A workout partner in the gym or a friend to question whether you really need a second helping of mashed potatoes can be just what you need to get through a moment of indecision. But when times get tough with your budget, the friend that might be happy to go for a run with you has a habit of running away when you start talking about needing help with your cash flow.

So, if you’re feeling alone in the battle of the bulge in your wallet, maybe the solution lies in finding some new friends. Where am I going to find friends who are going to want to help me with my budget woes, you ask? Trust me, they’re out there; you just haven’t met them yet.

Eager Donor, Meet Worthwhile Cause

Increasing revenue is a tough task for a teacher during the school year. You work long hours outside of the school day – don’t forget the stack of papers you carpool with – and finding outside work that fits your school schedule can be next to impossible. Well, if you can’t increase your revenue, your only other option is to cut your expenses, and getting a little help from “friends” through a crowdfunding source like Donors Choose can be just the boost that you need.

There are many crowdfunding sources available, but Donors Choose is one that is specifically for teachers and one that teachers and students at our school have benefited from numerous times. At Donors Choose, teachers can ask for help to cover the out-of-pocket costs for classroom items that are not covered in the school’s budget – the essential non-essentials, so to speak – that make a significant dent in a teacher’s wallet but are critical to creating a classroom atmosphere that is warm, comfortable, and conducive to learning. In the past few years, funded projects at our school have ranged from classroom sets of books for young adult readers, to comfy furniture for a cozy learning center, to a classroom pet.

Ask and There Is a Good Chance You Will Receive

Donors Choose was created in 2000, and it is a free service for full-time teachers at U.S. public or public charter schools. As of this writing, 276,186 teachers have received funding for 687,627 projects. These projects have benefited 17,579,385 students thanks to the generosity of more than two million donors. The Donors Choose website says that 75% of the proposed projects reach their funding goals.

Once you open an account with Donors Choose, you are able to post a project. To post a project, you will have to answer a few short essay questions and provide details about your project. Once it is funded, the materials are sent to you and all you have to do is provide the thank you cards and the photos of the happy students (and teacher).

A Friend in Need …

In South Carolina, the State Department of Education gives each of our teachers a $250 stipend to cover classroom purchases which is usually gone before the first child steps in the door in August. After that, if it is not included in a line item in the school’s budget, it is coming out of the teacher’s pocket. Fortunately, sites like Donors Choose provide an opportunity for teachers to tap into a network of donors who value public education and are looking for ways to help financially. Who knows, you might catch a break like we South Carolinians did when native son, Stephen Colbert, picked up the tab for over 1000 projects worth more than $800,000 in May of 2015.

Those are the kinds of friends that teachers need.

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Todd Laventure

Todd Laventure is a freelance writer and educator living in Charleston, South Carolina. Over the course of his 20-year career in education, he taught in middle schools and high schools in Michigan and South Carolina, and he was an administrator for another eight years. Todd writes about a wide range of topics, including education, and can be reached at www.toddlaventure.com.
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