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Teachers turn to crowdfunding to stock classrooms for upcoming year

Some Minnesota teachers are using crowdfunding websites like GoFundMe to pay less money out of their own pockets for school supplies.

MINNEAPOLIS — According to the Minnesota Department of Education, there is currently no state tool tracking how much money teachers personally pay on average for school supplies each year. But Oak View Elementary kindergarten teacher Lance Fredrickson has kept track of his expenses over the years.  

"As much as I would like to say the districts do their best to provide materials, we have a lot of students," Fredrickson said, noting that kindergartners are particularly hands-on and require various activities. "I've learned a little bit as I've aged and matured in education. When I first started, I would say probably $2,000 to 3,000 a year."

Fredrickson now turns to crowdfunding to help stock his Osseo Area Schools classroom in Maple Grove. He's one of several Minnesota educators launching GoFundMe accounts to raise money for the upcoming year.

At Harvest Best Academy in Minneapolis, school librarian Meghan Roegge is raising $5,000 to get more books on the shelves.

"For many years, this library really was kind of like a storage space," Roegge said. "We had a grant from Target back in 2012 and we were able to make the space into a library, but for many years between then and now, it was just sitting unused."

Roegge says for several years, the K-8 charter school didn't have a librarian on staff. However, last year, she took on the role after working in the same building as a teacher for nine years. 

"Being a school librarian means that I can impact the entire kindergarten through 8th grade as a school," she said. "Back in January, I did an audit of this library collection to figure out what we had in here and I discovered that only 11 percent of the books reflected our scholars, who are predominantly African and African American. We knew that we needed to change that if we were going to get kids excited about reading and really feel affirmed by this space. So we turned to GoFundMe as a fundraiser."

She says state funding is set aside for library construction. However, for book purchases, they choose to get the community involved. They're now about halfway to their goal.

"We've got everything from the Black Panther comics to poetry written by Jacqueline Woodson and Jason Reynolds," Roegge said. "The more investment we can get from our families and our community members, the more that this library will become a community space that everyone can feel like they played a role in building for our scholars."

"The more support we can get from the community, the more there is to do other things in this building besides just the library. We can focus on the whole school in many different ways."

In addition to monetary donations, Roegge says Harvest Best Academy is also accepting physical book donations, especially those by African and African American authors. They also encourage submitting book recommendations and requests for different books. Volunteer opportunities are available as well. To get involved, contact the school.

Back in Maple Grove, Fredrickson encourages people to shop clearance sections and says even one package of crayons could make a positive difference.

"If you don't support me, support your kids' school," Fredrickson said. "Support your cousin's school. Support your neighbor's school. Do something that's meaningful to you."

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