Art teacher Mary Barnes has already spent more than $300 of her own money on supplies in the first quarter of the year. After the classes she was teaching changed and her supplies were damaged by flood water, she was left without materials for many of her classes. DCPS allocates $25 per pupil for Visual Arts in their budget, which would amount to $40,000 at Wilson, however, the teachers never see most of this money.
“Principals make the final decision on all budget matters, taking into consideration priorities of each school and their student’s needs,” DCPS Arts Director Mary Lambert said, meaning that though money is designated for art in the budget, Principal Kimberly Martin can choose to move it to other subjects and the building, among other places. The four art teachers ended up being given $13,000 in total from the budget, about $3,250 per teacher, a small amount given that the teachers teach up to twelve classes in the year. The rest of the money goes into building expenses.
“The money designated for art is used for day to day expenses, such as broken bathroom items,” Manager of Strategy and Logistics Brandon Hall said.
Barnes, along with the three other art teachers, are used to finding outside sources of money for their classrooms to make up for the deficiency of funds. The teachers usually compensate for the difference in three ways: studio fees, the PTSO, and personal contributions. Both Barnes and art teacher Alia Hasan request a $10 fee from students, however, only about 10 percent of students end up paying it.
“Most of my AP students pay the fee, however, other than that a very small number of students pay it,” Barnes said, pointing out that the amount of students paying it decreased this year. The teachers submit a grant request to the PTSO as well in order to cover some of the classroom costs. Even after raising these funds, Barnes says on average most years she spends $2,000-3,000 of her own money.
Teachers were forced to pay for more out-of-pocket this year after flooding damage that occured in the storage room and ruined many of their supplies. “The school agreed to replace them, but it took a very long time, and I had to spend my own money before they came,” Barnes said.
While the lack of funds is an issue for the department, ordered supplies often do not arrive.
“I didn’t get any supplies last year,” Hasan said. “I ordered the supplies, but then the order never went through.”
The teachers are allowed to place orders for supplies paid by DCPS, but due to the ordering system, they often don’t come until February or March, leaving the teachers without supplies for most of the year.
“I put in my order, but I have no idea when it’s going to come,” Hasan said. “For your first semester, either you have to use supplies from a previous year, or you have to buy your own.” The school has promised to reimburse art teachers for their purchases this year.
Barnes tries to place orders for the supplies for the following school year instead of the current one in order to prevent having nothing for her first semester of classes. This strategy proved problematic, however. This year, Barnes did not find out which classes she was teaching until the first day of school, leaving her with many of the wrong supplies.
“Instead of teaching three sections of Intro to Art, I was teaching four sections of Drawing and Painting Level 2, so all of the sudden I needed more supplies for that class—I needed more good quality acrylic paint.” she said.
The teachers aim to ensure that the lack of funds does not detriment their classes, however this is not always possible.