Drive to help offset teachers’ out-of-pocket expenses

By Jonathan Cooper

Students, teachers and even local businesses all are winners from a new effort that will pump extra money into Kyrene classrooms.

The Kyrene Schools Community Foundation has begun what foundation president Jim Rhodes describes as a “hard push” to promote a program that has been in place for years.  The New Teacher Startup Grant initiative aims to fill a void in Kyrene classrooms, giving new teachers a grant to help with the initial costs of setting up a classroom for a first-year teacher.

Rhodes said each new teacher usually spends around $400 of his or her own money to start up a classroom. Each subsequent year in the same classroom can cost a teacher up to $250 out of pocket.

“Teachers are not paid well in Arizona,” Rhodes said. “And they are not given much in terms of supplies over the course of the year.”

Well-supplied classrooms are essential to student learning.

“The classrooms that are fully stocked with goods are more likely to have an easier time of learning (for students) than those that do not,” Rhodes said.

To fund the grants, the foundation is petitioning primarily local businesses that supply the items teachers purchase. The organization, largely through a letter-writing campaign, is requesting both cash and physical items.

“We can use suggestions from the community in terms of targeted companies,” Rhodes said.

The Foundation’s goal is to raise enough money to give each of the 200 new teachers $200 each. With fundraising for the massive effort barely underway, the group has on hand only a couple hundred dollars for this imitative and is still looking for business sponsors.

Rhodes said businesses will benefit in many ways, both short- and long-term, because of word-of-mouth endorsements from the strong Kyrene community.

“There is nothing better than a parent telling another parent how good the XYZ Company is for donating,” he said.

Long term, the foundation plans to place ads for repeat donors in school newsletters.

Donations can be sent to the Kyrene district office at 8700 S. Kyrene Road, Tempe. They should be marked “Kyrene Foundation Teacher Mini-Grant Program.”

KSCF is a Kyrene-parent group referred to as a “gap funder” for the district. The organization works on a district-wide basis to find funding for programs that have fallen victim to budget cuts as well as offer new, donation-based programs that would not otherwise be available.

The foundation’s most active program is Kyrene Kid’s Corner, which collects donations of clothing, books and family items that are crucial to academic success but are often forgotten, according to Rhodes.

Other programs include back-to-school backpack and school supply distribution as well as holiday gift donations.

“A wonderful note is that we have no overhead, meaning that every dollar that comes in, goes out,” Rhodes said.

“We are a 100 percent volunteer organization and our goal is to put as much of our funds taken in right back into the hands of the Kyrene kids in the form of goods and services.”

He added that the organization is always looking for help, “whether it be donations or physical bodies.”