With Budget Cuts Continuing, Teacher Panhandles For School Supplies

by Julie Scagell
Originally Published: 

One teacher took a creative approach to funding her classroom

We all know teachers will do whatever it takes for their students. They spend years educating and mentoring our children to be the best version of themselves. Often, they are forced to provide the tools and resources our children need because of shoestring budgets and cuts in federal spending. One teacher decided to take a unique approach to filling her classroom and bring attention to this ever-growing issue.

Teresa Danks, 50, of Claremore, Oklahoma, spent her summer shopping at garage sales in order to fill her third-grade classroom with supplies for next year. Frustrated, Danks told ABC News she was talking with her husband and he said, “You could always make a sign and go on the corner like the panhandlers.” So, she did.

Danks posted a picture of herself holding a sign that said, “Teacher Needs School Supplies. Anything Helps,” with the caption “Doing whatever it takes to get our kids what they need.” A teacher for the past 12 years, Danks took the sign out to a busy intersection near her home and was surprised by the reaction she received.

“It just felt so scary,” she told ABC News. “But it was a wonderful feeling to hear people being so supportive of teachers.” In addition to collecting around $50 in cash, she said it was the messages of love that made it even better. “The one that choked me up the most was a girl in her 20s who said, ‘Teachers like you are the reason I’m alive today.’”

Teachers have always done whatever it takes for their students. They provide extra food for hungry kids, and many work in underfunded schools, buy their own supplies, and do all of this on salaries that require many get second jobs just to pay the bills. With Trump proposing a $9.2 billion, or 13.5 percent, cut spending on education (many of which will impact grades K-12), pressure on teachers could get even worse.

In her home state of Oklahoma, Danks makes an annual salary of around $35,000 and spends nearly $2,000 of her own money each year on her classroom, according to ABC News. Oklahoma, like many states, has faced budget cuts in recent years, forcing some teachers to search for jobs in other states or in different professions altogether.

In addition to staples like tissues and hand soap, teachers also fund many of the projects they work on. “If I’m doing something on the solar system, I’m wanting to build rocket ships with paper towel tubes or make planets with Styrofoam balls,” Danks told ABC News. “When you multiply that by 20 to 30 kids it gets expensive.”

While Danks hopes her message is received by legislators, she is most hopeful that it lands local support of teachers across the country. “What I hope they take away is that the education of our children is important to our future so it needs to be important to everyone,” she told ABC News. “I would say go to your local schools and find out what they need. It could be as simple as getting them a bean bag chair or a border for their bulletin boards, but we need the community to help us step up and educate our children because they are our future leaders.”

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