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Ypsilanti teachers look to crowdfunding websites for school supplies

posted Sep 27, 2014, 2:02 PM by J Shaw   [ updated Sep 27, 2014, 2:03 PM ]
At the beginning of the school year, Aimee Conat, a first grade teacher at Adams STEM Academy in Ypsilanti, was given $200 to share with another first grade teacher to purchase school supplies for the year.

“We have about 50 first graders so that’s $4 per kid, for the whole year. That’s for pencils, paper, crayons and we have to make our own copies so that pays for toner, and everything,” Conat said.

In need of a creative way to make sure that her students were well-prepared for the school year, Conat looked, a crowdfunding website specifically for teachers.

“Before school started, knowing what was going to happen, I got onto DonorsChoose and created a website for my class to get the basic stuff we were going to need,” Conat said, then she started sharing the link to her fundraising page on social media.

Conat asked for almost $700 and had it funded within 24 hours.

One of Conat’s 17 donors included the makers of the popular card game Cards Against Humanity. Along with their donation they left a comment on Conat’s page: “We’re happy to donate the proceeds from our The 2013 Holiday Pack to your classroom in honor of Jeffrey.”

Conat said that after hearing about the success of her crowdfunding project, Adams Principal Christopher Johnson asked her to do a presentation so that other teachers in the building could use the tool to stock their own classrooms.

Several Adams teachers jumped on board and created projects. Two of them, by third grade teacher Kayla VanEgmond and fourth grade teacher Stephanie Moyski, were funded through a partnership by Google, along with nearly 300 other projects in the metro Detroit area this month.

So far five teachers at Adams have successfully used DonorsChoose to raise a total of $2,736 for the school.

Once a project gets funded through DonorsChoose, the organization purchases and ships the materials directly to the teachers.

Conat said it’s been a great resource for teachers at her school and more teachers are in the process of creating projects.

“I’m really lucky that I’m in a school with a really supportive principal who said, ‘Yeah, let’s do it,’ and a staff that was really open to getting on there and getting their projects funded,” Conat said.

Conat said she attributes the small budget she was given for school supplies to Michigan’s tight purse strings on school funding. With smaller budgets, teachers have to go into their own pockets to purchase school supplies which can be difficult.

“It’s particularly hard for first year teachers like myself. We just finished school so we don’t have anything of our own and we don’t have a ton of money to buy stuff. For some of us, buying school supplies at the beginning of the year can really be a financial hardship,” Conat said.

Deb Ennis, an art teacher at Holmes Elementary, is also crowdfunding for school supplies through a different website.

New legislation passed this summer intended to increase public school budgets actually caused many school districts across the state to lose funding. Chelsea, Dexter, Ann Arbor, Saline and Ypsilanti school districts were among those districts. The bill, HB 5314, included a $50 percent increase in per pupil school aid funding for these districts, but after factoring in an increased retirement cost of $66 per student, many actually ended up with a net loss of $12 and $22 per student.

The legislation passed in June, just as school districts were finalizing their budgets for the year, requiring last minute changes. Scott Menzel, who was YCS’s superintendent at the time, said in June that he expected the school aid bill would have a negative impact on the district.

While there aren’t any projects currently listed on DonorsChoose for Ypsilanti teachers, Conat said more are on the way, as teachers are allowed to do two projects per year. Those interested in contributing can visit the website and search for projects by zip code.
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