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Art teacher shares the sad reality of public funding as she prepares for back-to-school season

The letter allotted only $50 for buying art supplies and also stated that teachers will not be reimbursed for purchases made on Amazon.

Art teacher shares the sad reality of public funding as she prepares for back-to-school season
Cover Image Source: TikTok/@hcross93

As back-to-school season emerges, many teachers have been expressing their fears and concerns regarding work, their students and their limited salaries. With an underfunded public education system, teachers have to spend from their own pocket for supplies, even with the COVID-induced economic crisis and dwindling salaries for teachers. In a similar incident, an art teacher shared a rather disheartening TikTok video highlighting how teachers have to struggle on a daily basis to make sure the students get the best, especially when it comes to art, which is undervalued by the education system.

In the video, the art teacher, Hayley, asks, “You wanna see something sad?” She continues, “I’m an art teacher, and this is my allotment for art supplies for my classroom for this year." Hayley then displays the letter that she received, which outlines the amount of money the school would be giving her to order art supplies for her class for the entire year. It is merely $50.

Given the typical size of American classrooms, $50 for all of her students for an entire year seems entirely inadequate. The letter even states that teachers are not permitted to use Amazon if they want to receive reimbursement for their purchases, despite the fact that this is frequently the least expensive for purchasing just about anything. In a follow-up video, Hayley claims that the only thing she could purchase for her pre-K students with this $50 was two "stacks" of colored paper. She clarifies that the funding was provided by the school she collaborates with about a quarter of the time, visiting only a few days per year. 



She reassured viewers that while this year is particularly difficult due to COVID and the economy, she has experienced difficult years before and will seek additional support from the principal and PTA. She just wants people to know that this is what their kids are getting for a subject that is severely undervalued by a culture that generally values and loves art—except when the money that supports it is in doubt.

"My purpose for making the TikTok was to show people that might not be aware of the state of the arts in public education," she said. "It's bad. It's always been bad, but right now, especially after COVID, the state of the economy right now, it's bad."



Hayley is true in suggesting that COVID has added a burden on schoolteachers for supplies, but the status was pretty bleak before the pandemic too. According to a 2018 study, 94% of teachers buy supplies for their classrooms with their own money. Seven percent of teachers spend more than $1,000 while the average teacher spends $479. This occurs at a time when teacher salaries have decreased by almost 4% over the last 10 years, inflation-adjusted. According to research by the National Education Association, teachers typically spend $500 on classroom supplies and furniture. Nine out of 10 teachers, according to the association, won't get their back-to-school purchases of pencils, notebooks, whiteboards, posters or even software reimbursed.



She also expressed gratitude to those who offered to donate cash or purchase items from an Amazon wishlist but stated that she does not want to accept any donation because doing so might detract from her main objective, which is to raise awareness of the issue with school funding. 

Many comments reached out with similar experiences of public funding being inadequate, especially with art as a subject being undervalued. “We have a budget of $0 so I feel you!” said one user on TikTok. “I rely on scavenging and donations or using my own money.”

"That's just WRONG," a user writes. "That breaks my heart for you and our kiddos!!" Another user said, "I worked in a low income school district, they gave me 0 budget. I used whatever leftovers the previous teacher had." A different comment read, "I've been toying with going back to school for my dream career...being an art teacher. I just don't know now if I can do that."


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