Why do I do this?
My reasons are not all tree-hugger and environmental, as noble as those motivations might be. No, I scavenge out of necessity - me, and the scores of other Cleveland teachers digging through the piles of designer discards.
You see, the average supply budget for art teachers in the Cleveland Municipal School District is $300 for the school year. Most high school teachers have five or six art classes totaling 150-170 students. Let's do the math kids...That comes to approximately $1.76-$2.00 per student to spend on art supplies for a school year that lasts 36 weeks. And how much do you think $2.00 buys in today's economy? At the dollar store I can buy a pack of 20 pencils and two pink erasers.
Unlike suburban schools, we cannot charge parents a materials fee, in fact, we are not even supposed to ask students to bring in their own supplies.
In order to do any project beyond pencil sketching on copy paper, Cleveland art teachers most often dip into our own salaries to supplement the materials bought with the meager school budget. We haunt yard sales and the close-out aisles at Marc's. Some teachers have even been known to dig clay out of creek beds so students could learn how to make ceramics. We also write grants and beg for donations. This has been the situation district-wide for approximately the past six years due to a shrinking tax base, competition with charter schools, cuts in state funding, and a failed levy.