‘Education Isn't Always Prioritized in Our Country': Oakland Teacher Spends Almost $1K Out-of-Pocket on Students

Bianca Garcia, a first-grade teacher at an East Oakland school, recently received a shoutout from Brandon Flynn, a “13 Reasons Why” actor, on Instagram for the #10FeaturedTeachers challenge.

It’s only the beginning of the school year and Bianca Garcia, a first-grade teacher at Monarch Academy in East Oakland, has already spent about $500 of her own money to purchase classroom resources.

Her efforts to get her students the supplies they need have not gone unnoticed. Brandon Flynn, an actor for the Netflix hit show "13 Reason’s Why" gave her a special shoutout on his Instagram for the #10FeaturedTeachers challenge.

Jennifer Gonzalez / NBC Bay Area
Quickly after "13 Reasons Why" actor Brandon Flynn gave Bianca Garcia a shoutout on his Instagram, she began receiving Amazon packages filled with helpful classroom supplies.

Each year, school districts give teachers $200 to purchase supplies students need to succeed in the classroom. But it’s not enough.

Teachers across the country are spending their own money to make up for the lack of funds to provide effective learning tools for their students. According to the U.S. Department of Education, 94 percent of teachers reported paying for supplies without any reimbursement in the 2014-2015 school year. On average, teachers are spending $479 in hopes of providing learning tools for their students.

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“I probably will get closer to $800 of my own money by the end of the school year,” Garcia said. “And that’s saying that I want these kids to have all these different resources and experiences.”

According to Garcia, Monarch Academy is in an area of East Oakland where students see a lot of crime and her goal, like many at her campus, is to provide a quality education, even if that means spending her own money.

“I’ve been teaching now for seven years and I have never seen that prioritization in money for classroom resources and unfortunately right now in our country, education isn’t always prioritized,” Garcia said. “I anticipate continuing to have to spend my own money to keep my classroom looking the way it is and providing my kids with the best materials and resources they need.”

Since Garcia started teaching, she’s been able to create a big library for her students, one that wouldn’t have been possible with the small number of funds given to her by the district.

“I have students that love to read now who at the beginning of the year didn’t because I have a library of books that they actually find interest in, but these books I got by buying for them,” Garcia said.

Oviatt Library, California State University, Northridge
First-grade students work on projects at their desk at Monarch Academy.

In an effort to help Garcia with the supplies she needs for her classroom, Flynn posted a picture of Garcia with her students and asked his followers to help her and her “beautiful students” by purchasing an item from her Amazon wishlist. Since then, Garcia has received an overwhelming amount of support. Supplies like books, whiteboard markers, pencils, crayons, and even an iPad were donated to her class.

“They say teachers aren’t in it for the income they’re in it for the outcome and if you spend a day in my classroom you can see that my kids love being here, they love me, they love the space, they love each other,” Garcia said. “They’re definitely worth all the money that gets put into them.”

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