Teachers in the US are spending $500 of their own money on school supplies like crayons and chalk, and now they're turning to a viral hashtag to ask strangers for help
- Teachers are joining a nationwide campaign to crowdfund money for school supplies.
- Celebrities like Khloé Kardashian and country singer Casey Donahew have helped spread the word.
- GoFundMe says teachers ask for school-supply money on the platform each year. Public investment in K-12 education has dwindled in the last decade, as has teacher pay.
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Teachers across the country are taking to social media to help pay for school supplies using GoFundMe, and stars like Khloé Kardashian, country singer Casey Donahew, and YouTuber Jeffree Star are joining the cause.
Courtney Jones, an elementary-school teacher from Tyler, Texas, launched the trending #clearthelists campaign on Twitter in July. The movement started in closed Facebook groups for teachers helping each other pay for school supplies, but Jones encouraged them to broadcast their efforts publicly.
"The movement started as a way for teachers to support each other in a meaningful way," Jones told Business Insider in an email. "I want to raise awareness for the dismal funding for not only teachers' salaries, but for our resources to support our students."
In the same way Americans are turning to sites like GoFundMe to pay for medical costs, decreased government investment in K-12 education is now leading public-school teachers to crowdsource the cash they need for school supplies. Many teachers' Amazon wish lists are full of classroom basics: chalk, dry-erase markers, snacks, crayons, books, and more.
"Every year, teachers need help buying supplies, spending hundreds of their own dollars for the students," Huyenchau Vu, an elementary school teacher from Houston, told Business Insider. Vu joined the Facebook movement to help pay for her school supplies as the group was just forming.
"Now, with Courtney, they all decided to speak up," she added, "but I believe this only solved the short-term problem of education funding."
Teachers around the country are asking for help paying for basic school supplies - and celebrities are getting involved
Jones created the Facebook group Support a Teacher on July 1, and it garnered 42,000 members within just a month. The group was meant for teachers to help each other pay for school supplies using GoFundMe pages or Amazon wish lists.
Jones urged teachers to move their Amazon lists to Twitter using the hashtag #clearthelists for greater visibility. The movement really took off when it came to the attention of country star Casey Donahew, who sent a tweet about it on August 3 (Business Insider has reached out to Donahew for comment). Jeffree Star and Khloé Kardashian joined soon afterward.
While the campaign has picked up traction, the activity itself isn't new: teachers set up GoFundMe accounts to pay for supplies every school year, the company told Business Insider. GoFundMe spokesperson Bobby Whithorne added that education is the fastest-growing category on their site.
"We all know schools across America are chronically underfunded," Whithorne said in a statement. "Far too often the burden falls on teachers to make up for gaps in funding."
The movement highlights the dismal lack of money in public-school education
Paying for school supplies has become the norm for teachers in the US. Around 94% of public-school teachers report spending their own money on supplies, a 2018 Department of Education survey found. Teachers reported spending $479 of their own money on average each year, according to the DOE survey.
Part of the reason why teachers have needed to fund their supplies is because of nationwide cuts to K-12 funding. State funding dropped $166 per student from 2008 to 2016, a dip that sparked nationwide teacher protests last year. Today, nearly half of states still spend less on public schools than before the recession, according to the Center on Budget Policy and Priorities.
Pay for educators has also decreased. Teachers make less on average in inflation-adjusted dollars than they did in 1990, TIME Magazine reported using Department of Education data. Teachers make 19% less than other professions that require a bachelor's degree, according to the Economic Policy Institute think tank.
Jones said her dissatisfaction with how little the country pays teachers motivated her to start the campaign. She said many teachers spend time outside of work hours honing skills and developing new teaching methods.
"There are places in the country who take care of their teachers by providing a great salary, but in most cities, I feel as though we can do much better," Jones said.
hi y'all if you have any money to spare browse the #clearthelists hashtag and consider buying supplies off teacher's amazon wishlist or donating to the go fund me! help teachers get the supplies they need for their classrooms before school starts!!!!- taylor nicole dean (@taylorndean) August 6, 2019
Thank you to ALL of our teachers out there!! I donated! If anyone can help #clearthelists I know our youth and teachers will appreciate even the smallest donation. bless you always https://t.co/wvSNlfFKCQ- Khloé (@khloekardashian) August 5, 2019
With teachers having to pay around $500 of their own money for school supplies each and every year. Groups like @support_a_teach are amazing. Having my moderate to severe, self-contained classroom I will easily spend that and more for everything. #clearthelists- Jason Hand (@handj420) August 5, 2019