Connecticut Seeks to Fund Teachers’ Project Proposals With $4M Investment

According to a survey from the Association of American Educators, teachers, on average, spend over $650 on supplies.

This is a photo of Education Commissioner Charlene Russell-Tucker speaking at a podium with a group of children next to her.
Education Commissioner Charlene Russell-Tucker highlighted a new $4 million initiative where teachers can apply for up to $1,000 in funding for new programs. (Jessika Harvey/CT Mirror)

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Kate Dias, president of the largest teachers union in the state, the Connecticut Education Association, this week recalled a time in her teaching career when she bought Barbie dolls to make a lesson more engaging.

One of her colleagues, she said, used Play-Doh to help create calculus models. 

For both projects, the money to purchase those supplies came out of the teachers’ pocket, Dias said.

According to a survey from the Association of American Educators, teachers spend an average of over $650 a year on supplies, which sometimes includes toys for innovative ideas, but also purchases of everyday items for the classroom like notebooks and markers.

This week, state Department of Education officials announced a new $4 million investment that aims to give thousands of educators the opportunity to propose projects and have the supplies paid for by the state.

“Connecticut is home to excellent educators, and they deserve to be celebrated,” Charlene Russell Tucker, the state’s education commissioner, said at a press conference on Thursday at Highcrest Elementary School in Wethersfield. “Teachers work enthusiastically on behalf of our students every single day, fostering classroom environments where students are encouraged to be curious and take risks, and where student learning, growth, and well-being is always at the forefront. This investment emphasizes how important our educators are and how deeply we value the work they do on behalf of our state’s students.” 

The Connecticut Educator Support Funds Initiative launched this week in partnership with DonorsChoose, a website that allows teachers to crowdfund for classroom supplies and resources. 

Eligible projects must prioritize “learning acceleration, academic renewal, and student enrichment,” or “social, emotional, and mental health of students and school staff,” the education department said.

Pre-K through 12th grade public school teachers can apply for up to $1,000 worth of funding per project they propose. Funding will be distributed on a first-come, first-served basis and eligible projects are expected to be funded within a week of posting the request.

“We know that additional funds allow us to think and do things differently and in some cases, just enhances an opportunity we’ve seen and forecast in our classrooms,” Dias said. “These opportunities allow us to say ‘Listen, we want everyone to have access. We don’t want it to be based on what your teacher can afford to do. We want everyone everywhere to have opportunities to engage and do things differently.’ ”

Most of the existing posts on the DonorsChoose website are requesting money for classroom supplies including dry-erase markers, notebooks, pencils and water bottles. 

Other requests include scooter-boards for physical education classes in Danbury, T-shirts and snacks for a student yoga club in Bridgeport and headphones for state testing in Hartford.

This story was originally published in CT Mirror.

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