Teachers Have it Rough... But Kids Are the Ones Who Suffer

With the start of the school year, we have yet another terrifying shooting incident at the McNair Discovery Learning Academy elementary school in Decatur, Georgia. This is less than a year away from the tragedy in Newtown, CT. Between Newtown and Decatur, the U.S. has experienced 12 other shootings at schools. I just can't image how much stress this puts on all teachers. Our dedicated teachers do what they do because they have a passion to help mold the future of this country, foster creativity in young people, develop character in students and help people lead productive lives. They become teachers because of their sense of service. Having to protect kids from shootings was not part of their original job description -- but it is now.

Then on top of the stress to protect our kids, salaries have not moved much for teachers during the recession we have weathered since 2008. But what has moved up is the money teachers take out of their own pockets to help their kids. According to USA Today, teachers will be spending an average of $400 out of their own pockets for classroom supplies and other help for their kids this fall, which is up 3 percent from last year. Mallori Lucas, a language arts teacher in Valparaiso, IN, says, "Of course we're not forced to spend our money. But some of these kids don't even get breakfast before they come to school, so we buy those snacks and treats." Comparing today's school spending trends to 10 years ago, the National Center for Education has school spending on supplies at 4.1 percent of the budget compared to 8.1 percent. Kids still need the same amount of supplies and learning materials they needed 10 years ago, but it does not look like our schools have this in their budgets.

Teachers by nature are resourceful considering that last year they took $3 Billion out of their own pockets to help their kids; and they are going to spend even more this year. You can see this inventive behavior with what happened all over the country this summer as teachers anticipated they needed to help their students more than ever. Elementary school teacher Mary Loung started Educycle which helps other teachers sell or pass along useable school materials, and shop for supplies they need in their classrooms in California. Businesses can also donate any surpluses to schools through Educycle. The Chicago Sun Times reports that David Zine and Peter Baker, high school social study teachers from Aurora rode their bicycles to Seattle to raise money for Best Buddies, a nonprofit that partners special needs and general education students to help forge friendships. The Memphis Business Journal talks about teacher Elizabeth Monda from Corning Achievement Elementary, who was one of the first teachers to use the site PledgeCents, a crowd funding site, to raise $4,000 for materials for her students. And this dedication happens in every city, every state to make sure our kids are prepared to learn this year.

Charles Best, CEO of DonorsChoose, an online nonprofit charity group that matches donors and teachers for supplies and projects reports, "We've had a 30 percent increase over last year in requests from teachers." So we should all go to DonorsChoose to help out these teachers in need. At DollarDays on our Facebook page, we are giving away a total of $2,500 in products to 13 teachers that are nominated, so submit your favorite teacher to win.

How did we, as a well-educated society, get ourselves into this mess where we are putting so much stress on the teachers who we entrust with our kids every day? School should be a sanctuary of learning, maturing and growing our children into the next greatest generation. Instead teachers worry about bullets and having enough money for the basic functions needed to educate the leaders of tomorrow. Our current leaders have raised taxes, have us in a sequestration and can't agree on anything to help move this country forward. Nothing has changed since Newtown, except we are spending less to help our teachers teach our kids to be decent and honorable. It is the teachers of today with their dedication and determination who will set the example for their students by their actions of caring and giving. The rest of us need to support these public servants and ease their personal burden of doing the right thing for our kids.