The rapid approach of the school year’s September start makes more urgent the need to ensure all students enter classrooms with the necessary tools for learning.
Many families struggling with the household budget feel the extra bank-account pinch when school-supply lists mandate fresh purchases. Notebooks, calculators and binders, as well as backpacks to put them in, are all required from the day the first bell rings, at a cost that can run to hundreds of dollars per student.
When this burden proves too much for a family’s budget, donations and extraordinary efforts across our region generously help. Privileged children in private schools raise funds for students elsewhere they’ve never met. Teachers dip into their own pockets to ensure that everyone in the classroom has an adequate classroom environment, including essential materials for learning.
And for 20 years, Seattle Times readers like you have helped fund the Times’ school-supply drive through donations that are passed on to YWCA Seattle-King-Snohomish, the Seattle/King County Coalition on Homelessness and Hopelink to provide classroom necessities for students in King and Snohomish counties. In just over a month of this summer’s donation drive, about half the campaign’s $110,000 goal has been raised.
The need is so strong that the nonprofit Hopelink, which has worked since 1971 to help homeless and economically challenged families, is this year for the first time providing school supplies to teachers as well as students.
In 2018, the National Center for Education Statistics found that 94 percent of classroom teachers spend their own money buying classroom materials. The average amount spent nationally, nearly $500, is approximately double the $250 IRS tax deduction available for teachers. Hundreds of teachers in the Seattle area can be found on crowdfunding sites including Adopt a Classroom and DonorsChoose.org asking for help paying for supplies.
This month, Hopelink staffers will hold a first-ever Kirkland event to provide some routine classroom necessities — copy paper, pencils, tissue, cleaning materials and other supplies — to up to 30 teachers.
“It will help a little,” Hopelink spokesperson Kris Betker said.
That public-school educators would reach into their own pockets to ensure classroom equity is hardly a surprise to anyone who has known a conscientious educator.
But in Bothell’s private Evergreen Academy, pre-K teacher Zahra Rehamani reports finding a similarly generous spirit among her young charges. Evergreen has run school-supply and donation drives to help Hopelink, with Rehamani and other teachers describing the need to students.
“We’ll talk about school supplies and what it would be like without them, and they respond ‘How am I supposed to do coloring?’ ” Rehamani said. “Their usual response is that it would make us really sad and that we should do things for the other kids.”
The Montessori curriculum at Evergreen includes lessons of personal responsibility. If a pencil gets broken, Rehamani said, students are taught about the material cost of providing a new one.
“We make them realize that it’s not just a pencil, that there’s a lot behind it,” she said. “It’s not taking these materials or all the things we have in our classrooms for granted.”