Several education marketing groups, including the Education Market Association, have found that roughly 99.5 percent of all public-school teachers and administrators use their own money to prepare their classrooms each year – when both state funding and parental contributions fall short. At an estimated cost per teacher of more than $400 per year, an increased number of educators now utilize nationwide donation sites, to buffer the costs.

Schools in the District are no exception. A tour through DonorsChoose.org, which allows people to donate supplies to schools, shows teachers from both D.C. public and charter schools requesting materials ranging from personal hygiene products to books, laptops and drumsticks.

“My students need toothbrushes, soap, and deodorant for personal use. In the classroom, we want to remain clean and healthy as well with the wipes, hand sanitizers, and tissues,” a request from Charles Drew Elementary School teacher Ms. O said.

Another solicitation, from Mrs. Yarborough of Cesar Chavez Public Charter School in Northwest D.C. said: ‘My students need 60 copies of ‘Between the World and Me’ by Ta-Nehisi Coates.” According to the post, the book is the first book in her 9th grade class’ study of the Modern Black Experience in America.”

As the school year begins, it is unclear how many requests will be successfully answered. At the root of the budget crisis, The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities noted at least 30 states paid less per student in school funding in 2014 than they did in 2008. Further, by mid-2012, local school districts had cut 351,000 jobs – with 297,000 jobs remaining unfilled. The result, the study concluded, was “more teachers digging more deeply into their pockets than ever before, and that’s before the school year has even begun.”

Jacqueline Freeman, a retired DCPS teacher told the AFRO that parents are increasingly being asked to supply things to classrooms that the school used to provide. When coupled with an already tightened budget at home and deepened cuts within the school, teachers often feel obligated to make up the cost difference themselves.

“There were friends of mine who worked in major corporations, who agreed to photocopy materials we needed because there were not enough books budgeted, others donated supplies so that my students would not be shortchanged by a lack of materials,” Freeman, who retired in 2010 told the AFRO. “It has gotten progressively worse, because now I am hearing that classrooms are coming up short for things like mats for the kids’ naps.”

Staples offers a classroom registry, of sorts, that allows teachers to list the materials they require, and then promote those items to the public through their StaplesForStudents.org campaign each year. While the ire of some D.C. residents was raised at the thought of teachers having to pay for or solicit material donations, others told the AFRO that the donation sites bring needed attention to how city funds are being spent and how neighbors can help.

“I just moved here as a single person with no children, but I would gladly help support our local schools with whatever they need,” Ward 7 resident Eric Taylor told the AFRO. “I had no idea schools were dealing with this sort of thing . . . it means that as a community, we need to do our due diligence and help our students and educators as much as possible.”

In May, according to the Washington Post, the D.C. Council’s Committee on Education voted to raise per-pupil spending to 2.38 percent, which is more than a percentage point below the 3.5 percent increase recommended by education advocates.