Money is causal to academic success. No one wants to admit it, but in order for a student to graduate high school on time, with good grades and a solid future ahead, is expensive. In Portland public school districts alone, it costs an average of $98,000 to employ and prepare just one teacher. This cost includes their salary and all of the supplies needed for an academic year. According to a survey by the National School Supply and Equipment Association, teachers spent an average of $485 of their own money on supplies for their classrooms last year.
As part of our Participating in the Community project this term, we each donated $20 worth of school supplies (a total of $100) to Schoolhouse Supplies, a nonprofit organization that is stocked purely from donations. Schoolhouse Supplies is exactly what it sounds like—a place that gives free school supplies to teachers and schools who need them. We also went to Madison High School, where Schoolhouse Supplies is located, to give our donation. As of December 2014, Schoolhouse Supplies has managed to distribute $21,459,002 worth of school supplies to 51,725 teachers since the organization’s founding in 2000.
Over the course of this term, our team has spent a lot of time discussing the issue of opportunity gaps in schools with large populations of minorities. These schools tend to be located in deep urban areas without access to affluent neighborhoods to draw property taxes from. This generally has a direct correlation to rates of graduation. For example, the average graduation rate in the Portland Public School district was 80% in 2013. It was 72% in 2011, showing a distinct upswing the last several years. This trend could be attributed to particular attention (FINALLY) being paid to an area that really needs some TLC.
There are many other ways to reduce the opportunity gap besides working and paying taxes to the teaching community. Community involvement through donations, volunteering your time, and even mentorship programs for at-risk students are great ways to help our students and teachers “bridge” the opportunity gap in the bridge city. Activities like these are part of the reason that Portland’s graduation rates have increased the last few years, which is a strong motive to get involved with your local school. So get out there and volunteer!