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Union Leader: City teachers become digital panhandlers

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The Union Leader gave front page coverage today to a Mark Hayward’s weekly column,, this week about the efforts of Manchester teachers to make up for the severe budget constraints in the city’s schools.  Here are some highlights:

You’re a teacher in the community that spends less on education than any other in the state, save one.

So what do you do if you need a different chair to keep a fidgety student engaged? Or a special handwriting workbook? Or an iPad to help students with independent study?

You beg.

No, Manchester teachers aren’t standing at highway exits with cardboard signs. But they’re doing the online equivalent, and with the quiet support of the school administration.

On the homepage of the Manchester school district, there’s a link to, where teachers list the supplies and equipment they would like for their classrooms. Earlier this week, 109 Manchester school teachers had requests pending online.

“This is not news,” said Dr. Bolgen Vargas, the superintendent of Manchester schools. “Our teachers are incredible. They work hard. They have been doing fundraising and asking for help for a very long time.”

Vargas said Manchester teachers are asking for materials that teachers elsewhere in New Hampshire take for granted….

If Manchester wanted to just reach Nashua’s level of spending, it would have to add another $14 million, Vargas said.

So teachers fundraise.

The school with the most pages on DonorsChoose is Northwest, the largest elementary school in the city. Sixteen teachers were asking for material as of this week….

…even colored pencils are too extravagant. Teacher Debbie Villiard points to the notebook-sized white boards she recently obtained through DonorsChoose. They’re magnetic, so students can put plastic letters on the board while they try to copy them….

The Northwest teachers said they’ve become experienced at DonorsChoose, and it takes little effort to set up a page.

At Beech Street School, a teacher gives her colleagues workshops about DonorsChoose, said principal Chris Martin.

Richard Girard, a conservative-leaning school board member, said he wishes the school district could provide more supplies….

And he said it’s difficult to find money for supplies, equipment and additional staff when the teachers’ union wants to see $28 million devoted to raises over the next five years.

“We really have gone out of balance these last few years,” he said….

And in the end, the teachers in the largest city of one of the most affluent states are being reduced to acting like panhandlers. Panhandlers that everyone grumbles about when they start taking over the downtown.


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