Teachers struggle to pay for supplies

Elisse Ramey

Presented by: FLINT, Mich. (WJRT) -- Teachers begging on the streets.

They're not asking for money for themselves, but they need it for school supplies as their students prepare to head back into the classroom.

An Oklahoma teacher just made national headlines for panhandling to get supplies. And in parts of Michigan, teachers need help too.

"Not only is it harder to get supplies, we're paying for it out of our own pockets. It's a bigger and bigger hit every year," said Eric Kennedy, VP of United Teachers of Flint, Mich..

He says a supply drive earlier this year by MEA targeted Flint teachers specifically. They are having to get creative when it comes to keeping their students equipped for the entire year.

"I have a person who is using their mPerks (a discount program through Meijer) for the whole summer just to get money for that. I have another teacher who is using her birthday. ‘I don't want gifts, just bring me supplies instead,’" Kennedy said.

Other teachers are using websites like GoFundMe.com or DonorsChoose.org to get help buying supplies.

Carman-Ainsworth High School teacher Katherine Hamadeh says last year, someone from California paid for one of her class' projects through DonorsChoose.org.

"I also have students that have graduated that routinely donate books and supplies to the classroom. I never ask them to. They're just really great people and every so often they send a box of supplies to the room," Hamadeh said.

She tries to keep most assignments and projects simple so the economic disparity between some students isn't a factor in the child's learning, but with less and less funding from the state, it's not an easy thing to do.

"We used to get $50 a year, which isn't much, but it helps out to buy classroom supplies and now that number is at 0," she said. "Another thing that's happened, obviously, everyone has taken a hit with the economy, so we have families who less able to buy supplies for their kids."

Kennedy says funding in his district for school supplies amounts to roughly $5 to $10 per child.

"For instance, our supply money was cut in half when we went into the deficit," he said. "That was part of the give on the teachers' behalf to help salvage Flint schools. All the districts themselves have cut the amount of money per pupil for supplies."