When a teacher hands out a list for parents of basic school supplies, it’s a real problem for at least one in five children in the US who live below the federally defined poverty line.
In many districts, teachers don’t even publish a list because they know parents can’t afford the items.
“Most Americans just do not realize how significant of a need this is for these students,” says Corey Gordon, CEO of the Kids in Need Foundation. “There’s a sense of stigma. There’s a sense of shame.”
“What we are trying to do is remove those obstacles that keep these children from going to class,” Gordon says.
Deana Venturi, who teaches English at a magnet school in St. Paul, Minnesota, has never handed a supply list to the kids because 90% of them live in poverty. She spends her own money on supplies – $1,000 to $1,500 a year, she says.
“I hide what I spend from my sister (who is an accountant) because I don’t want her to know,” says Venturi. “It’s one thing students don’t have to worry about so much and they can focus on learning.”
Her school does not provide a budget specifically for school supplies. She gets a $200 stipend for the school year.
Without supplies, students can’t participate in the lesson, says this 20-year teaching veteran. “Academically, they won’t do well.”
Venturi also points out the stigma around not being prepared.
“Having a backpack if everyone has a backpack, having a notebook and pencils and really wanting to do the right thing,” says Venturi. “They want to do well.”