Teachers' DonorsChoose Requests Show Growing Inequity, Study Finds

Teachers' DonorsChoose Requests Show Growing Inequity, Study Finds

Teachers across the United States increasingly are turning to crowdfunding to meet their basic classroom needs, while funding patterns for those requests underscore the growing inequities in the nation's public education system, a report from Grantmakers for Education finds.

Based on an analysis of 1.8 million requests made by more than a million teachers between 2009 and 2019 on the DonorsChoose site, the report, A View From the Classroom: What Teachers Can Tell Philanthropy About the Needs of Schools (12 pages, PDF), found that while teachers at high-poverty schools made the majority of requests and received the majority of dollars raised, requests from teachers at low-poverty schools have been funded at higher rates since 2017. According to the report, 58 percent and 25 percent of all requests over the ten-year period came from schools in the highest- and high-poverty quartiles, while 14 percent and 3 percent came from moderate- and low-poverty schools; 70 percent of requests from the highest- and high-poverty schools in 2009 were fully funded, compared with 58 percent of those from moderate- and low-poverty schools; and 68 percent of requests from more affluent schools in 2017 were filled, compared with 64 percent from poorer schools, with the gap continuing to widen in 2018 and 2019.

The study also found that while the number of requests for academic materials far outnumbered other types of requests between 2009 and 2019, the three fastest-growing subcategories were Warmth, Care & Hunger, a category added in 2016, which recorded an annual compound growth rate of 187 percent; Health & Wellness (up 47 percent); and Character Education (up 45 percent).

The growth in the Character Education subcategory reflects rising interest in social and emotional learning (SEL), an area, according to a 2019 GFE report, to which education funders are paying more attention. Indeed, with the number of DonorChoose requests citing SEL quadrupling between 2017 and 2018, the platform added SEL as a subcategory within Applied Learning in 2019 and saw it account for 9 percent of all requests through December 4.

"It is heartening to see that funders' growing interest in supporting topics like social and emotional learning and equity track with the fastest growing areas of teacher requests," said Richard Tagle, GFE board member and CEO of the Andy Roddick Foundation.

"This massive database provides an unprecedented window into teachers' perceptions of the needs of schools, and how those have changed over the last decade," said GFE executive director Celine Coggins. "It tells a story of deep resource equity gaps. Teachers in high-poverty schools are playing a growing role in ensuring students' basic needs are met, while they also seek additional resources for their academic needs."

(Photo credit: Grantmakers for Education)

"A View from the Classroom: What Teachers Can Tell Philanthropy About the Needs of Schools." Grantmakers for Education Report 02/10/2020. "Millions of Teacher Requests Reveal Deep Funding Inequity." Grantmakers for Education Press Release 02/10/2020.