The Nevada Department of Education announced this week that it is partnering with a national crowdfunding website to distribute $ 8 million in COVID-19 relief funds to teachers for school supplies and classroom projects .
This is the first such partnership in the country.
It’s also probably more needed than ever by educators who, during the pandemic, saw the state’s existing school supply assistance program budget wiped out.
Here’s how the new partnership will work: Educators will submit requests for supplies of up to $ 800 for their classroom to DonorsChoose, a non-profit crowdfunding website focused solely on K-12. DonorsChoose will approve all requests that align with state academic content standards or COVID-19 recovery and response priorities. Then, the association will order the requested supplies and have them shipped directly to the classrooms.
At least 10,000 Nevada educators – about half of the workforce – are expected to benefit. Projects will be funded on a first come, first served basis.
The need for teachers has increased
National surveys of educators have found that teachers spend an average of hundreds of dollars each year for school supplies and are not reimbursed. A 2019 Economic Policy Institute analysis estimated the Nevada average at $ 534.
More than $ 13.5 million has been donated by more than 40,000 donors to support 7,843 teachers in 619 Nevada schools, according to DonorsChoose. About half of the money was donated out of state.
Nevada State Superintendent Jhone Ebert at a legislative budget hearing in April told lawmakers that while most states saw their number of requests for DonorsChoose drop as COVID-19 was spreading, Nevada saw an increase in requests.
As of Thursday, nearly a thousand active projects were listed on the crowdfunding site. A high school teacher asks for scent-free cleaning products because scented ones trigger her migraines. A teacher at a charter school wants a financial literacy kit that teaches middle children through a game called “Allowance.” A teacher in an autism class at a low-income elementary school asks for copy paper, glue sticks and safety scissors.
The last request was titled “Basic Needs!” “
(According to the Department of Education, eligible existing projects that have not yet received donations can be removed and resubmitted to DonorsChoose for funding under the $ 8 million program.)
Typically, DonorsChoose adds a 15% fee to project requests to cover their administrative and marketing costs. But the organization won’t take any part of the $ 8 million after Nevada lawmakers in the spring expressed to the Education Department that they would have a problem with an outside organization getting such a large chunk of the covid relief funds.
Yet other concerns are likely to persist.
In August, at an interim finance committee meeting where lawmakers approved the $ 8 million to be used in the partnership, Democratic Assembly Member Howard Watts expressed concern that the money could go disproportionately to schools that already have better resources.
Jessica Todtman, director of strategy at the Department of Education, said Thursday in an interview with Running that the state agency does not have the resources to distribute the money itself. The state also prioritized expediency over a more detailed process that could have focused on schools with higher needs.
“It was really important that we met immediate needs,” Todtman said. “In Nevada, we’re two months away in the school year in some places. To do something finer, we would have to wait. We would take requests for three months and then determine. Teachers wouldn’t get things done in a timely manner.
DonorsChoose said the submitted projects will be approved within a week.
Todtman says the association will also offer personalized support to teachers who need help preparing their project application.
Financing the supply of teachers is not a priority
“Right now more than ever, (Nevada educators) deserve our support and admiration,” Governor Steve Sisolak said in a press release announcing the partnership, “and I am proud that we can provide Nevada educators resources to finance their class projects.
But Nevada has a tenuous relationship with funding school supplies.
Sisolak in 2019, during his inaugural state-of-the-state address, proposed to increase an existing $ 2.5 million school supplies assistance program by $ 2 million. He said it would increase the amount each teacher could receive from $ 100 to $ 180. The legislature, which takes the budget recommended by the governor and adjusts it to determine the state’s final budget, supported this proposal. This brought the program to $ 4.5 million per year, or $ 9 million for the 2019-21 biennium.
But in order to balance the state’s budget after it was devastated by pandemic shutdowns, lawmakers withdrew $ 4.5 million from the program in a special session last summer.
Then, for the 2021-2023 biennium, the Ministry of Education requested that the budget account for school supplies be again funded to the tune of $ 9 million over two years. Sisolak, in its Recommended Budget, set the program’s budget at $ 0 – and that’s the amount the 2021 legislature approved in its final budget.
This week’s announcement of the $ 8 million DonorsChoose partnership in the context of this recent history is not lost on some educators.
An English teacher at a CCDS high school said he viewed the previous allowance of $ 130 for “laughably small” class supplies and the program as a “pathetic attempt to reimburse teachers for what they are forced to spend to ensure that their students get what the state should provide.
Yet, the teacher continued, the previous program “was at least something we could passively achieve.”
“This year, instead of what was already a complete and utter joke, the state’s education department wants us to fill out additional paperwork to show them what they already blatantly know that we so desperately have. need in our classrooms… ”
For their part, Todtman of the Nevada Department of Education admits that educators still have a lot to be upset about.
“We will not claim that $ 800 will change a knowledgeable perspective of how they experience their school or how they are treated by their administration,” Todtman said. “But we see this as an important way to show educators that we value and trust them. We don’t ask their superintendents what teachers need, we don’t ask the community what teachers need, we don’t ask lawmakers. We ask teachers. It’s not something that always happens.