On Saturday, 10 teachers walked across the ice rink at a junior hockey match in South Dakota toward a gray carpet at center ice. A worker at the hockey game had just emptied a trash bag full of $5,000 in $1 bills into a massive pile on the carpet. The teachers were then instructed to battle each other for as many bills as they could grab — all in an effort to gather funds to go toward their classrooms. Even with the most sanitized language, the contest is barbaric to watch. How little can teachers be valued?
Videos of the inaugural event, which went viral on Sunday, show one teacher stuffing their shirt full of dollar bills while another uses their shirt like a bucket. It looks like the near dozen educators are taking every strategy gleaned from watching kids enter money booths at the arcade and hoping to perfect it in this undignified version. And who can blame them?
Teachers, on average, spend $459 of their own money on their students and classrooms each year, according to the Economic Policy Institute. In South Dakota, the same report found teachers spend an average of $349 out of pocket for their students. This doesn’t mean that South Dakota teachers care less on average, but schools have a variety of funding methods as they become more like hubs for wellbeing instead of just hubs for learning.
Teachers do so much for their students these days, especially if you teach in a Title I school. After basically two years of covid, these educators have bent over backwards to keep kids safe, including spending more money for sanitizing supplies to keep their classrooms free of viruses and bacteria. Despite their efforts, it grimly seems that the best we can offer teachers is a halftime performance to grab dollar bills while the audience munches on popcorn.
And it’s not just teachers trying to buy fresh crayons who are relegated to a cash grab to pay for necessities. About a third of the $5 billion raised by GoFundMe campaigns have been for medical care. The need for affordable medical care was only made worse by the coronavirus pandemic. GoFundMe CEO Tim Cadogan begged Congress to pass a relief package as his company witnessed the growing suffering. “Our platform was never meant to be a source of support for basic needs, and it can never be a replacement for robust federal COVID-19 relief that is generous and targeted to help the millions of Americans who are struggling,” he wrote in February.
As our government descends further into austerity simply because we’re unwilling to contend with filibuster reform, I ask that kids who want to learn to read, to explore, to play, and to grow be given adequate tools to do so. I ask that we support teachers through more than adequate funding and competitive salaries instead of a carpet covered with a mound of cash.