The next time you meet or speak with a school teacher, ask how often they have paid for schools supplies for their classroom or come out of their own pocket to help with the educational needs of their students. This writer started asking these questions informally several years ago and the answer is always the same: teachers have to pay for some of their classroom supplies or they would not be able to complete their lesson plans.

Maybe it is more common in the South, where schools have a long history of underfunding, but now we see this is a national and verifiable trend. One fourth of teachers surveyed in Philadelphia last year reported giving their own money to help with everything from transportation to lunches. Forty-seven percent confirmed their classrooms were lacking in basic supplies. A national study in 2013 found that 99.5 % of public school teachers spent some amount of money out of their own pocket, totaling an estimated $1.6 Billion for that school year.

Even in suburban areas, teachers have reported having to buy their own supplies for classroom projects, as well as helping out kids who all too often fall through cracks in the system, like those recently made homeless, dislocated, or awaiting some benefit application process. Forbes estimates that teachers’ average spending on school supplies to be around $400 per year. And statistics show that this amount is increasing year over year. This is a significant amount of money in a profession where a $30,000 yearly salary is not uncommon.  Despite their low pay, the internet is replete with teacher accounts of having to spend hundreds of dollars every year to keep their classrooms going.

Of course corporate America has jumped on this situation by offering “teacher discounts” to encourage brand loyalty. They are also stepping in where public funding is lacking. Unfortunately, as educational institutions turn to major businesses to help with funding special projects, they all too often become beholden and have to comply with terms that are acceptable to their corporate benefactors. Still the trend towards corporate takeover of our schools is growing. One can’t help but think that the dumbing-down of America is reaping multiple benefits for those who are the largest donors to the GOP.