In just one more week, we'll already be in the second month of the school year. Now that the dust has settled, it's time for administrators to take inventory. Maybe a new student has arrived, or a teacher has decided that her classroom is really art-inclined and wants to do an extra visual project.
Whatever the case is, October and November are typically the time when administrators and teachers purchase more classroom supplies to account for the actual realities of their classrooms. And while Target and Staples are great, there are other ways to get what you need — including a number of new startups in the space.
Based in Detroit and founded by former educators, Chalkfly is one-stop shopping for teachers on the supply prowl. Similar to online shoe hub Zappos, Chalkfly allows schools to purchase supplies (everything from furniture to paper) online, shipped overnight at no additional cost. That's not all, though — the company offers a 365-day return policy.
While all of this addresses convenience, we haven't even gotten to the best part: 5% of any purchase goes to a teacher of the buyer's choosing. So an administrator can spend $300 on district supplies and then reward a teacher in the school with $15 to be spent on any classroom supplies they want at Chalkfly. Sounds like a pretty good system for rewarding teachers while still benefiting the whole school.
While this site is typically used more by teachers looking to fund classroom projects, administrators should still be in the know. That way, if they have to decline a teacher's request for a video camera to create a mini classroom news show, they can at least point the teacher in the right direction.
The way DonorsChoose works is quite simple. Teachers (or administrators) create a classroom account and a request. Some teachers want a set of classroom books for a historical fiction unit, others want lab equipment for an AP science class. DonorsChoose is hooked up with a number of vendors, so teachers actually find what they need and how much it will cost before asking the public for support. Family, friends, or random do-gooders who happen upon the teacher's page can donate money. If they receive enough, the goods will be purchased. All the class has to do is write thank-you notes to the donors, which is a good lesson on writing letters and being thoughtful, anyway.
EduCents is a new start-up out of Oakland that tells administrators about discounted educational products — great for districts that may be faced with a bit of a budget crunch. Similar to e-commerce sites like Gilt or BeachMint, EduCents provides daily deals on educational goods at discounted prices. For example, personal planners are listed at 50% off for $14.99 — but you have to purchase them within 6 days of their being on the site. The site also makes forays into the world of printable curriculums. For example, a school can purchase units for fourth and fifth grade social studies for only $4. Given how cheap the prices are, it's not hard to imagine someone getting a little overzealous and purchasing a whole bunch of stuff that the school doesn't necessarily need. The bill could rack up fast. For that reason, we recommend only using the site when you know EXACTLY what you want.
We've written about this beta startup before, but think it's awesome enough to mention again. In short, ClassWallet aims to alleviate the reimbursement waiting time. Often, educators are asked to pay out of pocket for new supplies and then get the money back later. This can put teachers in a crunch, and founder Jamie Rosenberg — who also created AdoptAClassroom.org — hopes to streamline the way schools or foundations could distribute money to teachers. Schools using the web-based program get ClassWallet accounts, and teachers spend money directly from the school's account. Best of all, the money is all tracked on a PDF for administrators.
ClassWallet Partners include Best Buy, Office Depot, Scholastic, School Specialty, and Carson Delosa — which means teachers can go directly to the sites and just spend from their school's ClassWallet account. For spending outside of the partnerships, say for a field trip? Teachers can use prepaid MasterCards.
Yes, this site doesn't sell supplies in the traditional sense. Rather, Teachers Pay Teachers allows schools, teachers, and administrators to pay other schools, teachers, and administrators for their lesson plans and teaching resources. Adam Freed, former COO of online marketplace Etsy, was recently named as the new CEO of this marketplace for teachers, so we look forward to seeing the direction he takes it. While the site may not sell things like markers and lined paper, the lesson plans it has can be equally useful. A downloadable pack of 65 "Brain Breaks for the Classroom" is selling for $5.75. Sounds cool to us!