COVID Relief Funds Being Tapped For Teacher Classroom Supply Requests

By Jessica Marie Baumgartner | Published

classroom materials

During the COVID-19 pandemic, public schools were handed billions of dollars in federal aid. These Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSR) funds were given without a clear plan for spending, or specific criteria on what that money should be utilized for. Because of this many school districts have resorted to using ESSR money on non-covid related expenses which now include classroom materials like learning toys

Every year lawmakers argue over school budgets, and oftentimes, that means teachers lack proper classroom materials. Many districts ask for more money regardless of how much they receive, and more funding has not led to a thriving school system. Many districts allowed their ESSR funds to be spent on controversial classes which teach identity politics and Critical Race Theory (CRT) rhetoric. This has led to a mass exodus from the public school system as parents who complained were bullied by school boards and even politically persecuted by the National School Board Association.

As enrollment and attendance rates drop, teachers have also been retiring early and fewer young adults are willing to enter the teaching profession or work in public schools. With fewer students comes less funding, but many are asking why this is an issue. If schools are serving fewer students with less teachers, then they may need to downsize. Instead of working out plans to address and accept the long-term effects of shrinking public schools, administrators have shifted the burden onto teachers, and this includes finding funding for additional classroom materials. 

Because of the constant need for new classroom materials that hold students’ attention and keep up with modern trends, some teachers are having to seek out financial support from websites like DonorsChoose. This site seems like a normal crowdfunding organization, but in fact, some states are using DonorsChoose to spend ESSR money based on teachers’ pleas for help. Instead of equally distributing funding or using a class-needs-based system, Nevada, Utah, and Connecticut have all poured large portions of their ESSR funds into DonorsChoose cases. 

This is a pick-and-choose system that spotlights the teachers who make the best case through essay format. Teachers who are too overworked to write a heartwarming cry for help and/or don’t even have the time to hop online and beg for money — instead of grading papers or working on lesson plans — miss out on receiving these already collected taxpayer funds. While the popularity of crowdfunding, and online platforms that capitalize on the idea of helping others, has grown immensely during the past few years, many crowdfunding sites are run by those who hold political bias. Whether teachers should be given money for classroom materials based on state-sponsored crowdfunding is just now entering the broader education debate, but it is one that is of interest to millions of Americans who are footing the bill. 

classroom materials

Each year, parents are expected to supply a long list of classroom materials, and each year public education budgets must be passed. Being that ESSR money must be used by the fall of 2024, many states are eager to disperse the funds, but how they are being utilized is drawing national attention. Some states are funding classrooms through the DonorsChoose website, but that places an added burden on those who are at the front lines of the struggling education system: the teachers.