The Daily Tar Heel

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Sunday June 4th

Chapel Hill music teacher turns to crowdfunding

Sarah Davies, a music teacher at New Hope Elementary School, teaches with materials purchased through
Buy Photos Sarah Davies, a music teacher at New Hope Elementary School, teaches with materials purchased through

It is a time of year Davies always looks forward to, especially since her music class is often the one time of day where all of her students can be successful.

But state funding for instructional supplies, like Davies’ turkey feathers, dropped in the 2014-15 school year to approximately $29 per student, down from $59 per student in 2008-09, according to the Department of Public Instruction.

And as the state’s public education budget continues to get cut, teachers are turning to less traditional forms of funding to bring materials into their classrooms.

“There’s a chance that you put a post up and it won’t get funded, but the chance that you’re going to get materials that you wouldn’t have received otherwise is worth the risk of taking your time and effort to write a proposal,” Davies said.

Davies’ personal favorite is an education crowdfunding site called, which she started using eight years ago. And in that time, she said she has had approximately 61 projects funded.

For the 2015-16 school year, North Carolina teachers have received more than $854,000 in completed funding from, according to data compiled by the site. This ranks North Carolina eighth in the amount of money received for completed projects compared to the rest of the U.S. California ranks number one with more than $3.8 million received for completed projects in the 2015-16 school year.

While the company is dedicated to providing educational materials to teachers across the U.S., Rakey Drammeh, the assistant to’s CEO Charles Best, said the website is particularly focused on helping teachers in high-need areas.

“We’re seeing an increase in project request proposals from teachers in high-need areas, which is really good and what we want,” Drammeh said. “That’s our big, audacious goal — to reach every high-need school in America, but there’s definitely been an increase in high-need schools on our website.”

In the 15 years she has taught at New Hope Elementary, Davies said she has seen many shifts in not only the school’s budget but also in the socioeconomic makeup of its student body.

“Previously, our poverty rate had been pretty low, and now we’re a Title I school and I think that we’re much above 50 percent in terms of the poverty rate,” she said.

Currently, more than 61 percent of New Hope Elementary’s students are considered economically disadvantaged, meaning they qualify for free or reduced-priced lunches, according to the North Carolina School Report Cards. New Hope is one of four schools within the Orange County School system that falls within the 61 to 80 percent poverty level.

Davies said the majority of her projects are literacy based, since her students more often than not cannot afford to have books at home.

“For me, I have 650 kids at my school, so (buying books) means all of us can use the materials and share them,” she said. “And if it’s a book, I can read it with my first graders, and then read it again with my first graders the next year.”

Elaine Algarra began teaching art at East Chapel Hill High School, which is part of the Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools, in 2007, and has seen her budget cut, while the prices on consumables increased.

Algarra decided to turn to to help her fund her classroom projects, and like Davies, her projects often center on things she can reuse each year.

“DonorsChoose allows me to try and fund ‘special projects,’” Algarra said in an email. “Last year I had one project funded to help enhance the technology in my room, and this year I am hoping to buy art books to help with the district’s literacy initiative.”

Currently, both Davies and Algarra have projects posted on



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