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Lack Of CPS Funding Leads Edgewater Teachers To Seek Online Donations For Own Classrooms

As state budget issues remain a concern, local public school teachers in Edgewater are continuing to use online fundraising methods to raise money for classroom furniture, tools and other items in order to help their students learn.

That’s what led Kary Zarate, a George B. Swift Specialty School teacher, to post an online request for $1,252.19 on a website to purchase three ball chairs and two marker board tables for her second-grade students. Her request has now been fully funded, but other teachers still need funding assistance.

“I absolutely feel like this is typical,” she wrote to the Edgeville Buzz. “More and more often, with the current states of our budgets, too, I feel like this method is getting turned to. It’s the true definition of a public education — generous, kind people of the public giving and giving to our public school students.”

Each of Zarate’s students have a cognitive disability that significantly impact his and her learning. Some of her students also have a physical disability to work with and around, she posted to her request page on DonorsChoose.org.

“Not only do my students have these physical and cognitive challenges, but they are all English-language learners,” Zarate wrote. “These students rise above all the hurdles put in front of them at our urban, low-socioeconomic school. Each day, I’m proud to be their teacher, as they continue to show promise and a willingness to put the hard work in.”

She said she realized she needed new tables this year because the tables that had been in her classroom before summer vacation began were removed. They were given to another teacher as a result of a higher overall student enrollment.

Since there is a shortage of furniture at Swift, Zarate was forced to use an adult-sized circular table from the teachers’ lounge. However, that table is much too tall for her students, and it doesn’t allow all of her students to see the board because the table is circular. The two rectangular marker board tables, which can be written on, allow for more interactive learning.

Additionally, the ball chairs assist students who need to constantly move.

“Having furniture that fits the needs of my students will allow them to focus on school work instead of on being uncomfortable and unable to see the lessons,” Zarate said. “It’s really awful to have students (who are) unable to write because the tables and chairs are too tall for them.”

Additionally, she added, it’s unfair to have some students have to sit with their backs to the chalkboard because they are supposed to be writing and looking at the board at the same time. With the right tools, students will have an easier time learning what they need to know.

She said DonorsChoose.org typically works very quickly in delivering the funded materials to her classroom. She’s hoping the tables and chairs will arrive by mid-January.

Zarate said Swift Specialty School raises money in other ways, via community fundraisers and with its Friends of Swift organization, which hosts movie nights. It also participates in the box tops program. Other teachers use the same website, as well.

While Zarate’s fundraising requests have now been met, another teacher at another school is still waiting to raise enough money for eight sets of plastic book baskets and one set of outdoor big pillows.

Carola Lopez’s third-grade class at William C. Goudy Elementary School consists of 34 active, intelligent, curious and motivated children, she wrote on the website. Almost all of her students — 99 percent — come from low income households. They are all bilingual Spanish speakers. She is requesting $691. The funding deadline is March 26, 2016.

“The students will use the book baskets to organize their library books,” Lopez wrote on her page. “They will use the cushions as comfortable places where they can grab a book to read. This will create a comfortable, organized library that will encourage them to want to read. I want … (the students to use) the library as a place to relax and enjoy a book, as opposed to (an) unused section in the classroom.”

Lopez did not respond by publication deadline for added statements for this Edgeville Buzz story but did include various comments on her fundraising page.

Zarate, however, explained that her friends have seen great success with this method of raising money for education.

“I really couldn’t afford to keep putting my money in because those little things add up tremendously,” she said. “Other methods of fundraising don’t reach as many people, and this was a way that my friends and family could support me. They often ask ‘What can we get for your room?” Doing projects like this is a way people in my life have shown a tremendous amount of support. Not everyone can come in and donate time to a classroom, so this was a way that people could give.”

“I absolutely anticipate using DonorsChoose.org again,” Zarate said. “It’s been a life saver.”


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