Despite the influx of cash into the school, NYC teachers are still fundraising for materials


Her sophomores need to get restless, includes veteran Bronx teacher Áine Sia.

This year, his students — who have never yet completed a full year of in-person schooling — vary in their ability to sit still. Those who spent time in class last year may sit longer than those who were completely remote, and they constantly need to go to the bathroom, said Sia, who has been teaching for nearly three decades.

Instead of trying to “correct” her students and trying to get them to sit still, Sia wants to embrace their movement and channel it positively by getting seats that allow them to move. She turned to DonorsChoose to fund her $605 goal to purchase three ergonomic inflatable chairs and three balance ball seats.

“If you keep shutting the kids up because they can’t sit still, then what? If you turn them off because they don’t want to sit in a chair, what’s your option now? asked Sia, noting that adding colorful chairs in different shapes and sizes makes her room less boring. “I want my students to read, write and enjoy life, and at this point I want them to be more socially secure before reading and writing. These children are confronted with many things.

Sia has turned to DonorsChoose more than 20 times in the past 13 years, raising more than $20,000 for everything from pencils and snacks to trash bags and Chromebooks.

Many teachers are embracing the crowdfunding platform to help fund materials and projects for their classrooms, especially in schools like Sia, PS 112, where almost all students come from low-income families. income and where parent-teacher associations cannot afford to raise funds. to fill in the gaps.

Despite more than $7 billion in federal stimulus funds earmarked for New York City schools, thousands of teachers are still missing things they believe will help their students this year and are turning to DonorsChoose, an organization to nonprofit that reviews every project on its site and ships fully funded projects directly to educators. Some Bronx teachers are raising money for microphones and speakers to amplify voices behind masks. Several others are hoping to get headphones, materials that can help their students relax, and books that reflect their students’ faces.

More than 3,800 New York City teachers in “equity-focused schools” — which are defined by DonorsChoose as schools where at least half of the students are black, Latino, Native American or Pacific Islander, and at least 50% of students qualify for a free or reduced price lunch — have posted projects this year on the platform, according to a company representative.

The charity site, however, has caused conflict in some school communities with gifted and talented programs where families in those classrooms have been able to fund their teachers’ projects more easily than their counterparts in general education classrooms, said Allison Roda, an assistant professor at Molloy College who has written extensively on New York’s gifted programs.

Some families felt that the money flowing into gifted classes came at the expense of fundraising for school-wide projects, she said. At a school where she was researching, funding inequities have mobilized families to phase out the gifted program — something Mayor Bill de Blasio hopes to do citywide, but mayor-elect Eric Adams has questioned.

“Because of resource hoarding, there is also a sense that G&T classes are ‘better’ because more money is poured into these classes and more parents volunteer compared to other tracks,” Roda wrote in an email. “They have flexible seating, bean bag chairs, new computers and new donated carpets. G&T’s parents said they wanted these things for their child. However, parents in general education, ICT [integrated co-teaching for special education]and bilingual tracks believed that parents should fight for these things for all classes.

Meanwhile, teachers at some schools with students from low-income families began posting on Twitter and tag rich and famous people, asking to help fund their projects. (Some of these projects will get a boost on Nov. 29 and 30 for Giving Tuesday when NBC 4 New York and Telemundo 47 match certain donations to tri-state area projects posted by teachers from “equity-focused schools.” .)

The #1 request from teachers in “equity-focused schools” is for educational kits and games, followed by books, instructional technology, classroom foundations, computers and tablets. Last year, when the majority of students were learning remotely, the most frequent request from teachers was for computers and tablets, even though schools across the city invested in about 800,000 devices.

The growing demand for kits and games likely reflects teachers’ desire to find new ways to capture students’ attention.

“We’ve heard from teachers that these resources help students stay engaged with learning content, especially at a time when blended learning, remote learning, and adjusted in-person learning have affected the classroom environment,” DonorsChoose spokesperson Juan Brizuela wrote in an email. .

The total number of projects posted by teachers at New York’s “equity-focused schools” through Nov. 22 fell 10% from the same period in 2019 before the coronavirus pandemic began, and it fell about 2% from the same period last year, according to DonorChoose data.

“Some possible factors that may have contributed to this are: teachers feeling less sure about when they would be in or out of class, a limited ability to provide resources directly to students over the past year and/or having need fewer daily supplies because of the shift to digital learning,” Brizuela said.

For Sia, the Bronx teacher, the platform has been a lifeline for many teachers at her school, who often pay out of pocket for supplies and snacks and also donate other goods, like lightly worn coats. of their older children. She often calls on relatives to fund her many projects and sometimes dips into her own pocket to get them across the finish line, especially when DonorsChoose has a 50% match for certain projects.

“It also shows the children in the classrooms the generosity of people who don’t even know them,” Sia said. “I hope it’s a memory that stays with them as part of this ‘pay it forward’ – if you have something, maybe you can share it with someone else and keep that wheel of the wheel going. kindness.”

Correction: Based on data from DonorsChoose, this story initially indicated a larger drop in teacher projects posted to the platform.


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