English learners caught in competition for funding
Oct. 20, 2016 – The Philadelphia Public School Notebook – by Bill Hangley, Jr.
This year brought some good news for Katie Christ.
“I finally got textbooks!”
That’s a welcome addition to Christ’s high school classroom in Delaware County’s William Penn School District, where she’s taught students who are learning English for 11 years.
But new textbooks are just the start of what she needs for her English learner (EL) classes. For other needed materials – novels and short stories, online language instruction, computers, snacks – she’ll keep doing what she’s always done: find freebies on the internet, borrow from the English or history departments, raise private donations, or pay from her own pocket.
“I don’t mind spending the money when I see the outcomes,” said Christ, who estimates she spends $1,000 of her own money a year and raises about $3,000 more online.
One online source of funds is a website where donors can give to classroom projects. “Without Donors Choose, I wouldn’t be able to do what I want to do,” she said.
And when it comes to the bigger things that only her district can provide – like more staff to support students, more time in the school day to collaborate, or a fully stocked computer cart – she’ll cross her fingers and hope for a better budget next year.
“I only have two computers in the classroom. One of them’s mine,” Christ said. “I had a computer cart, but they couldn’t handle the new updates. They were old when I first got them.”