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$10M in state money to pay for teacher DonorsChoose projects

Updated October 31, 2023 - 12:05 pm

Fifth grade teacher Beth Barber used grant money on classroom crowdfunding website DonorsChoose to buy a big skeleton so her students can learn about bones.

“It just adds a little extension to the classroom that normally we couldn’t do,” she said.

Barber, who has been a teacher for 22 years, has accumulated classroom supplies over the years. But she said new teachers could easily spend $1,000 or more each year.

She teaches at Piggott Academy of International Studies, a Clark County School District magnet school in Las Vegas, and said a lot of parents can’t provide school supplies.

“It’s tough right now,” she noted.

Having extra basic supplies like pencils in her classroom provides peace of mind, she said.

State officials held a launch event Tuesday at Piggott Academy for a second round of the Nevada Department of Education’s DonorsChoose grant program.

Nevada public school teachers can get up to $500 in materials they’re requesting for their classrooms.

Earlier this year, the state Legislature passed a law that appropriates $10 million to fund DonorsChoose projects for public K-12 teachers.

The second round of funding is expected to reach about 15,000 Nevada classrooms.

In 2021, the first round of funding — $8 million in federal COVID-19 relief money — was used for supplies in roughly 11,000 classrooms. Educators received up to $800 in materials.

Teachers have the opportunity to order materials to best meet their classroom needs, said State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jhone Ebert.

There’s no out-of-pocket expense for teachers, she said, as it’s not a reimbursement program.

Teachers can request items such as reading and science materials, or flexible seating for their classrooms, Ebert said.

Materials are shipped directly to schools and arrive in a few weeks, she said.

In a statement Tuesday to the Las Vegas Review-Journal, DonorsChoose CEO Alix Guerrier wrote: “Nevada Department of Education recognizes the hard work their teachers put in to empower students and support students’ well-being in the classroom. This second initiative with DonorsChoose is a commitment by Nevada Department of Education to continue trusting the frontline wisdom of their educators, and to continue ensuring that students have what they need to achieve their goals this school year.”

‘Investing in public education’

Sen. Marilyn Dondero Loop, D-Las Vegas, was a teacher for 30 years in the Clark County School District.

“I know how much blood, sweat and money teachers put into their classrooms,” she said.

It’s important that teachers have some funding for materials, she said.

The state’s K-12 public education budget over the next two years also includes an additional $2.6 billion in funding, for a total of approximately $12 billion. And the Legislature appropriated $250 million for school district employee raises.

“We have worked really hard in the last few legislative sessions to make sure that we were investing in public education,” said Senate Majority Leader Nicole Cannizzaro, D-Las Vegas.

She said teachers can get materials they need “without them having to resort to their own pocketbooks.”

School tour

State officials toured a few classrooms Tuesday at Piggott Academy before students arrived for the day.

Many teachers were wearing Halloween costumes, including Barber, who was dressed as an axolotl — a type of salamander — and she had a sign around her neck with a message for students: “You axolotl questions!”

In a science, technology, engineering and math classroom, Principal David Hudzick told visitors: “As you can see, there’s a lot of things we’ve had to purchase for the room.”

That included whiteboard tables and wobble chairs.

In her Hawaiian-themed classroom, second grade teacher Maile Rodrigues talked with state leaders about materials her grade level team has requested through DonorsChoose, including items to support new reading curriculum.

Rodrigues thanked state officials for the DonorsChoose grant funding, saying, “A little goes a long way.”

Contact Julie Wootton-Greener at jgreener@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2921. Follow @julieswootton on X.

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