We have all heard the saying you can’t put a price on education, but what about the out-of-pocket classroom expenses incurred by educators each year? Great teachers are always looking for new ways to expand their instruction and engage their students. Innovative teaching is important–but it can be expensive. This requires access to funding for teachers.
How much does it cost to educate a student?
It is difficult for agencies to estimate how much it will cost to educate a student. No matter what type of research is used to determine the amount of funding in education, every methodology is flawed to some extent. Researchers may also disagree on what an “adequate” education looks like. Since some students may have special needs or require more services, it is difficult to take into consideration the cost to educate every student with one single average. This being stated, how can we expect a one size fits all teacher budget that works for every classroom? This is why educators routinely spend their own money in their classrooms.
In 2015, the average teacher spent somewhere in the neighborhood of $500 with 10% spending $1,000 or more. And these were not isolated incidents. According to an AdoptAClassroom.org study, 91% of teachers make these costly investments in their students’ education. According to a recent National Teacher and Principal Survey, conducted by the National Center for Education Statistics, 94% of US teachers have used their own money — without reimbursement — to purchase school supplies for the classroom. Unfortunately, federal, state, and local school funding continues to shrink.
There is never enough funding for teachers!
As a classroom teacher, there never seemed to be enough money in the budget and this was a huge frustration for me. I quickly realized that I had to take matters into my own hands. This is when I began writing grants to get the things that I wanted for my students. If you are new to grant writing check out my article Grant Writing Basics for Beginners for guidance.
After years of seeking out funding sources, I have derived a list of the best sources of funding for teachers. These funds cover everything from classroom supplies to professional development for teachers. In this article, I will share that list of resources with you.
Let’s start with understanding the fact that K-12 teachers can take advantage of the Educator Expense Tax Deduction to help put a dent in out-of-pocket expenses. To be eligible, you must be a K-12 teacher and have at least 900 hours of work experience at a school that is state-certified to provide elementary or secondary education. This requirement can apply to public, private, and religious schools, as long as they are a 501 3C certified organization. Be sure to keep all of your receipts when shopping for the classroom. Remember, you can only deduct expenses if you are not already receiving reimbursement from your school.
Federal Grant Funding for Teachers
Federal grants are economic aid issued by the United States government. A massive listing of such federal grants can be found on Grants.gov. Use the filter “Education” as the category to narrow your search results. Academic Improvement and Teacher Quality (AITQ) Programs administer several major formulae and discretionary grant programs authorized by the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 and reauthorized by the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001. These programs provide financial assistance to state and local educational agencies, institutions of higher education, community and faith-based organizations, and other entities. Funding supports activities designed to recruit and retain a high-quality teaching staff for America’s schools, to strengthen the quality of elementary and secondary education, including through after-school programs, to test and disseminate information on new approaches for improving educational results, to improve literacy skills for children and students from birth through 12th grade, and to raise the educational achievement of at-risk students. If you work for a Title I school your chances of obtaining funding through these grant sources dramatically increase. This doesn’t mean that only Title I schools qualify for them though. I don’t advise you to start here if you have never written a grant before. These grants are much harder to obtain and should be reserved for more experienced grant writers.
Private Grants Funding for Teachers
Unlike federal grants, private funding does not entail funding from any federal, state, or any other public agency. Rather, private grants are funds distributed to the community based on a particular organization’s mission. Lots of organizations offer funding sources that are targeted to help educators. This is where I have found much of my funding success.
For private funding sources, you should begin with any large corporations near you. A few examples of private grants that help K-12 teachers include:
Resources For Identifying Classroom Funding Sources:
Sites like InsidePhilanthropy are a great place to start when looking for private funding for your classroom. Edutopia, Grants 4 Teachers, and Grant Watch are additionally great resources for identifying classroom funding sources.
There are organizations that you might not be aware of that fund your professional development and classroom supplies and projects.
Professional Development Grants:
The NEA Foundation for the Improvement of Education is one such organization that awards grants that support the professional development of public school teachers and faculty in public institutions of higher education.
Albert Einstein Distinguished Educator Fellowship Program grant is an excellent and unique professional development opportunity for K-12 teachers possessing at least five years of experience teaching in STEM subjects. STEM educators participate in 10- or 11-month positions in federal agencies or U.S. congressional offices across the country, during which time they are given the chance to have a direct impact on education programming, policy and reform efforts. After the program, teachers return to the classroom with a deeper understanding of STEM education and experience that will enrich instruction and benefit students.
The McCarthey Dressman Education Foundation provides Teacher Development Grants for individual teachers or small teams working in K-12 education. To foster insightful and innovative professional training and growth, the grants allow you to implement new teaching methods and strategies in the classroom.
Fund for Teachers is unique in that it awards grants for professional development based on the principle that the teacher is the one who knows what they need to grow as an educator. These grants are self-designed and allow teachers to create their own professional development opportunities based on what is most beneficial to their teaching in their own opinions.
The American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronauts is dedicated to the importance of STEM education and awards $200 in grants to K-12 teachers who want to incorporate new ways of teaching science, technology, education, and mathematics into their classroom. Smaller grants such as this one are a great place for first-time grant writers to start.
Classroom Supplies & Student Achievement Grants:
The NEA Foundation also offers Student Achievement Grants. Their student achievement grants allow practicing public school teachers to apply for the funding of programs designed to improve the academic achievement of students. You must create a plan that fosters critical thinking and problem solving in students and aims to expand their comprehension of various subjects.
The Association of American Educators Foundation awards $500 classroom grants that can be used for a variety of projects and materials, including but not limited to books, software, calculators, math manipulatives, art supplies, audio-visual equipment, and lab materials.
Beacon Technology Teacher Grant is for teachers who need an extra bit of funding for classroom supplies, educational subscriptions, apps for students, and more. This grant generally awards $500 to $1,000. This is a Verizon partnership grant.
Osmo For Schools, in partnership with Osmo Cares, the charitable arm of award-winning STEAM brand Osmo, announces one-time mini-grants consisting of $2000 worth of Osmo for Schools’ educational technology.
The National Weather Association, also referred to as NWA Sol Hirsch Education Fund, focuses on supporting the importance of meteorology in elementary, middle, and high school by awarding grants to teachers who demonstrate a commitment to improving the quality of meteorology education, a science subject that is frequently overlooked. The award amount is generally $750 and may be used for purchasing materials or equipment, the establishment of community outreach science programs, or professional development.
ING Commercial Banking established the ING Unsung Heroes Program in 1995 in an effort to recognize teachers implementing new teaching methods and techniques for improving student learning. Applications are judged on innovation, creativity and the potential to positively influence students. Each year, 100 finalists receive $2,000 grants, with at least one grant awarded in each of the 50 states. Of those 100 finalists, three winners are selected to receive awards of $25,000, $10,000, and $5,000. This grant allows for a large range of funding awards and can be a bit more competitive in nature. I would not suggest going after this one as a first-time grant writer.
Local Funding Sources for Teachers:
There are additional private funding sources that will be local to your area. For example, I have received several grants from The Lower Pearl River Valley Foundation, a local agency in Pearl River County. Be sure to inquire about local options such as this near you. Typically these organizations will send information to an administrator at the district level for dissemination to the staff. You could start with your Superintendent or Curriculum Coordinator to see if they have such information or if they know who you should contact within the district that would know.
In addition, you should look into joining some organizations that fit with your passion(s) and check out their funding sources. For example, I was a member of The Delta Kappa Gamma Society International (DKG), an organization for women in education fields, for years. I was awarded grants through this organization. There are many organizations out there for educators that are similar to DKG. Perform a google search and look into organizations that have chapters near you. These are great resources for all things education, not just funding. Click here to locate a resource for identifying similar organizations.
K-12 teachers have found Crowdfunding to be an extremely popular funding source for obtaining materials over the last 5-10 years. I have personally utilized this method through various sources for my own classroom. In fact, it was reported that educational crowdfunding campaigns managed to raise almost $140 million in 2015. I have provided a list of the most popular and trusted resources below. However, feel free to conduct your own research on this topic as these resources are vast nowadays.
These next few can be a bit tricker for educational purposes but are trusted resources nonetheless.
When it comes to using crowdfunding as a source there are a few important things to know. Celine Provini at Education World says that “it is totally acceptable to engage students in the crowdfunding project itself. In fact, assigning students different tasks for the project can be a great learning experience that teaches skills in communication, fundraising, and marketing. You can also involve other teachers and staff, parents and community members.” I second her opinion and have proceeded accordingly on my own campaigns and have been quite successful! This brings me to the next fundraising option, community sponsors.
Community Sponsorship has been wildly successful for me personally and is one area that I find highly underutilized by educators. What are community sponsors? This is generally parents, business owners, or other community organizations that take interest in a school or classroom project and choose to support it via a donation. I have personally been funded by numerous local businesses, banks, and even local community groups. The Rotary Club is one such organization that funded one of my class projects and all I had to do was speak to their organization.
Personally, I find getting students involved and posting successes in the newspaper to be a part of my success when it comes to getting community sponsors. After a few years, I began having businesses contact me and ask if they could donate to my classroom. I suggest putting information out on your school website, in the local newspaper, in communications to parents, and in front of your school board. This is exactly what I have done for years. Educators seem to forget to communicate with stakeholders that are not directly involved in their classrooms. These are often the very stakeholders that can benefit them the most if they simply knew there was a need.
Community sponsorship is one of the easiest ways to get funding and often involves the least amount of effort. A simple letter explaining your need and how they can help and a thank you note explaining the success of their donation is basically all it requires.
Find your funding source and get started!
This concludes our funding sources. I hope that you find a source that works for your classroom or professional development needs. If you are new to grant writing, be sure to begin by reading my article Grant Writing Basics for Beginners for guidance. After completing your first grant you can submit your grant for review by We Are Teachers. Simply send details, including the grant amount and deadline, to [email protected], to have them review it for you.
The hardest part of obtaining funding is taking the first step. Don’t let fear stand in the way of your or your students’ dreams and/or needs. Get started today! Please be sure to keep us posted on your success stories. We always love to hear from you. Happy teaching and best of luck with obtaining funding!
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