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Teachers turn to crowdfunding websites to buy school supplies

COLUMBUS (WCMH) - With about a month until the first day of school, teachers are already checking their school supply list.

Many Ohio teachers reach into their own pockets and spend an average of $600 on school supplies every year. 

Many teachers are turning to fundraising websites to pay for classroom projects and supplies. 

The state auditor Dave Yost says school districts need to create a policy around crowdfunding.

Kindergarten teacher Anna Callender spends her summer time off from school being a mom. She makes lunches and spends time with her two boys. At the end of August, she'll be Mrs. Callender with a classroom full of 25 kids ready to learn. 

“I work in an incredibly disadvantaged neighborhood currently so a lot of my kids could not afford the supplies that they needed,” said Anna.

A couple of years ago Anna worked at a charter school in the Linden neighborhood with no air conditioning. She says her classroom would be steaming hot in the summer months. 

“I used Donors Choose to get a portable air conditioning unit. Unfortunately, the school wasn't going to pay for it,” said Anna.

Donorschoose.org is an online crowdfunding website teachers can use to help get their classroom the supplies they need. In Ohio, there are currently 900 donation requests by teachers on Donorschoose.org. The site says it’s raised over $600 million for classrooms across the county.

“I had children passing out from the heat and I had children having asthma attacks from the heat,” said Anna.

A couple of weeks and $500 later, she was able to supply her kindergartners with a cooler classroom. 

“The kids were just so appreciative,” said Anna.

A survey of teachers and principals done by the National Center for Education Statistics found that 94% of teachers spend their own money on school supplies. Many teachers have turned to online donations.

State Auditor Dave Yost urges schools to put a crowdfunding policy in place to spell out what is allowed. 

Ohio Auditor's office crowdfunding policy recommendations for school districts:

  • Require that all crowdfunding campaigns be reviewed and approved by a designated school administrator.
  • Direct the designated administrator to ensure that the proposed crowdfunding campaign does not violate any federal or state law, including those governing the confidentiality of student information.
  • Ensure that the campaign seeks donations that comport with the district's educational philosophy, needs, and technical infrastructure.
  • Designate which crowdfunding services can be used by teachers. These should be services that send donations directly to the school to ensure that they are not diverted or misused.
  • Require that district officials determine if participation with a given crowdfunding site obligates the school district to assume any responsibility to file government-required reports of charitable activities.
  • Require that donations be used for the stated purpose.
  • Mandate that no donations be accepted without school board approval.
  • Establish that all crowdfunding donations are the property of the school district, to be entered promptly into the district property inventory or deposited in district bank accounts so that they are subject to normal financial oversight and auditing.

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