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Teachers Spend Their Own Money to Meet Basic Student Needs

A student with a warm winter coat

Teachers know firsthand: students can’t learn when they come to class cold, hungry, or self-conscious about their personal care. These teachers aren’t sitting by and watching their students deal with poverty alone. According to a new survey of DonorsChoose.org teachers, 84%of teachers in the highest poverty US schools have opened their wallets, taking it upon themselves to purchase student life essentials.To make sure these teachers get the support they need to deal with poverty in the classroom, DonorsChoose.org is launching a new category of projects to address students’ essential needs. We’ve partnered with several generous companies and foundations to match every donation made to one of these projects, while funding lasts.

“How can a child be expected to concentrate on school when they are hungry, unclean, or worried about what they don't have? Teachers are usually the first to notice these needs and we are often the ones to provide, because we love our students.” - a South Carolina elementary school teacher

The Connection Between Poverty and Education

Poverty and education are inextricably linked. In 2014, a National Center for Education Statistics report estimated that one in five students in the United States is living in poverty. Another report from NCES shows that these students are seven times more likely to drop out of high school.To get a better picture of this national problem, we surveyed over 2,000 teachers from some of the highest poverty schools across the United States to better understand their experience and the needs of their students.

What Teachers Are Buying for their Students

Of those teachers, 84% have purchased student life essentials for their students with their own money. From that group, 63% report spending over $100 per year on these items. And even for those teachers who have never purchased an item like this for their students, 78% see a need for these resources at their school.

student life essentials infographic

Teachers who have purchased essential items for their students note a variety of benefits in the classroom.

Chart: Educational benefits of student life essentials items

We heard dozens of stories from teachers that showed the difference a warm coat or well-fitting shoes can have for students. One Las Vegas teacher talked about the change she saw in one student after buying a few essentials:

“I got one of my students a brush and hair ties to keep at school. Every morning she would come in, take her things to the bathroom, brush her hair and put it in a pony tail. Instantly her attitude toward school changed. She got confidence in herself by looking like the rest of the girls and started to focus more and work harder on her class work.”
students standing in line

For 17 years we’ve been working to create a nation where “students in every community have the tools and experiences they need for a great education.” We know that mission is so much harder when our teachers are spending their precious money and time meeting students’ basic needs. Now you can help make sure students arrive to class fed, clothed, cared for, and ready to learn.

Support a Student Life Essentials Project

Teachers: Learn how to submit your Student Life Essentials project

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