Educators all over the country are flocking to Target this week for a 15 percent discount on school supplies. But it’s too little, too late for some teachers, who have resorted to crowdfunding sites in order to purchase the most basic of classroom essentials: desks and chairs.
A quick search on DonorsChoose, a crowdfunding site specifically for educators, shows dozens of campaigns in Fresno asking for both flexible seating options like stools, camp chairs and beanbags, as well as regular, old desks.
Amy Sepulveda is crowdfunding for desks for her seventh-grade classroom at Fort Miller Middle School in central Fresno. She said the ones she received from Fresno Unified at the beginning of her first year of teaching were covered in carvings of swastikas and penises.
Sepulveda said she asked how to get new ones and was given three options: poach some from departing teachers, hope that the district has extras or raise the money for them herself.
“Basically, they said it’s not gonna happen,” she said.
She’s raised $150 so far toward six large tables that cost $239 each, for a total need of $1,616.
More than just ugly, the existing desks in Sepulveda’s classroom are impractical for the kind of group work that modern curriculum demands, she said. They’re attached to chairs by a metal railing, leaving her students to jump over them in order to work together.
Teachers at Fresno Unified receive around $300 each year to spend on supplies at Office Depot.
Sepulveda said she has opened two credit card accounts since last school year and maxed them out in order to buy classroom essentials and decor — a major financial undertaking for a new teacher.
She said she does it because walking into a bright classroom versus a bare one makes an immediate impact on students who come from low-income backgrounds. Nearly all students are eligible for free or reduced-price meals at Fort Miller, which has struggled in the past with high rates of violence, as well.
“These students aren’t dumb. They know when they’re not getting funded, and the message that sends is that nobody cares,” Sepulveda said. “They should know they are cared for.”
This week alone, Sepulveda said she spent $680 on supplies — $100 on paint to cover graffiti she’s found on her classroom walls. She said she plans to spend next week painting, and has already enlisted her grandma to help her erase inappropriate symbols from her textbooks.
Hey, Target, a little more help?
Sepulveda said she’s appreciative of Target’s sale, because it shows that someone is paying attention to teachers who have had to spend their own money on supplies for years. However, she added that the billion-dollar retailer could stand to donate some things to classrooms, too.
“It’s blanketing over the problem, which is systemic,” she said. “We need actual funding.”
Her sentiment has been echoed on social media, where people have been wondering why teachers have to spend money out of their own pockets at all.
Fresno Unified spokesman Miguel Arias confirmed district teachers receive money on a card to spend at Office Depot. Some teachers receive extra from their sites on top of the $315 from the district. The amount was raised for kindergarten and transitional kindergarten teachers, who need more disposable materials, according to Arias.
Arias said he hadn’t heard of any crowdfunding campaigns for seating, and that teachers can bring in other options if they have a preference.
“The district provides desks and chairs,” Arias said. “But there’s room for teacher choice.”
The Target sale runs July 15-21 and offers discounts on writing and organization supplies, as well as paper towels and hand sanitizer. Office furniture is not included in the sale.
Other examples on DonorsChoose
DonorsChoose is a crowdfunding site specifically for public education employees who spend most of their time working with students. Teachers start a campaign by listing what they need, which is then verified by a DonorsChoose volunteer.