Teacher donation requests display the legislature’s failure to fund classroom needs

The 2019 budget included a provision to grant a site called DonorsChoose, which connects teachers with crowdfunding for classroom supplies and other needs. The budget provision faced criticism because it specifically funded requests only in then-Sen. Jeff Tarte’s district. DonorsChoose decided to turn down the funding rather than single out specific teachers for help.

Real Facts examined a sample of the requests made on the DonorsChoose website by North Carolina teachers throughout the month of March 2019 and found that basic needs (supplies available at an office supply store) made up 24 percent of requests, following technology needs as the second most common request category. Teachers across the state turned to an independent crowdfunding website to ask for paper, markers, pencils for EOG testing, and whiteboards because state funding remains consistently inadequate on this front.


Methodology Note: DonorsChoose is updated constantly with requests; the following report represents a sample consisting of 298 requests collected over the period of one month. In order to process the volume of requests on the site, we narrowed our collection using the following parameters available on the DonorsChoose website: North Carolina + Classroom Basics + Trips + Food, Clothing & Hygiene, + Instructional Technology.

RFNC analyzed 298 requests from 58 counties and 204 NC public schools representing 58 percent of all NC counties and 8 percent of all public schools. Notably, as of April 25 there are 27 LEAs (local school districts) closed for the May 1 teacher rally, which constitutes 23 percent of the 115 total LEAs.

Most common request by category: Technology

Technology includes wide-ranging requests that include headphones, calculators, online learning software, and more. Technology represented 53 percent of all 298 requests.

Basic supplies, the second most common category of request, includes anything available at an office supply store such as Staples. Basic supplies constituted 24 percent of all requests analyzed.

Most common specific request: headphones

27 percent of requests analyzed were for headphones

NC Superintendent Mark Johnson touted plans to give iPads or Chromebooks to all K-3 reading teachers for the start of the 2018-19 school year. What could seem like a helpful, if slightly unnecessary, resource may have created another expense for teachers and schools. Electronic games and activities often require accompanying sounds or audio. iPads typically come with one set of earbuds which, for hygiene reasons, probably should not be shared among classrooms of five to eight-year-olds.

Earbuds also break or get lost easily. Teachers could require students to bring their own, but that is not possible for every family. Put yourself in your six-year-old brain, now remember to pack your homework, your books, your lunchbox, your coat and your headphones for school.

Problems with Johnson’s technology drop are echoed in requests on DonorsChoose like this recent one from an elementary school in Winston-Salem:

Other common specific requests include whiteboard markers, calculators, laminating, and printing supplies.

  • 21 percent of requests were for basic school supplies (whiteboard markers, laminating supplies, markers, pencils, etc)
  • 17 percent were for STEM learning needs (calculators, math games, science project materials, etc)
  • 12 percent of requests were for printing supplies (paper, printers, ink)

There were also some notable specific requests for chairs, a fan, clean clothes for students, and classroom supplies after Hurricane Florence.

  • Folding chairs, Devonshire Elementary, Mecklenburg
  • Fan, Topsail Elementary, Pender
  • Printer to “make copies of textbook readings since the school is short on textbooks,” Cerro Gordo Elementary, Columbus
  • Technology resources for special education classroom, Dixon Road Elementary, Johnston
  • T-shirts for students in need of clean clothes, West Columbus High School, Columbus
  • “Classroom supplies after Hurricane Florence,” Tabor City Elementary, Columbus 
Region with the Most Requests: Southwest

Iredell, Rowan, Cabarrus, Stanly, Anson, Union, Mecklenburg, Lincoln, Gaston, Cleveland Counties had the most requests among the sample of DonorsChoose requests analyzed.

The State Board of Education divides the state into eight regions pictured in the map below. The Southwest region comprised 25 percent of the requests analyzed. In addition to containing the state’s most populous county, Mecklenburg, it contains House Speaker Tim Moore’s home county of Cleveland.

The Sandhills region came in second with 20 percent followed by the Southeast with 17 percent. Both the Sandhills and the Southeast regions contain some of the state’s poorest counties including areas devastated by Hurricane Florence.

Our state budgets are clearly struggling to adapt to the needs of 21stcentury classrooms. The data from this sample show that teachers need support and supplies to prepare their students for today’s world. Though there are clearly dire needs for basic supplies, like paper, greater needs exist for the technology to prepare students who will enter the workforce in the 2030s.