In May 2018, just as school was about to close for the summer, thousands of teachers in Arizona walked out of their classrooms, joining educators in the “Red for Ed” movement in protest of stagnant salaries and the lack of funding for school supplies.
According to a federal Department of Education survey, 94 percent of public school teachers in the United States pay for supplies without reimbursement, spending an average of $479 per school year. The Education Market Association also found that $1.6 billion in school supplies is pushed onto teachers every year, with one in 10 teachers spending more than $1,000 of their own money.
Among these teachers is Monica Baird, an educator and entrepreneur in Phoenix.
“Leaving the business world and becoming a teacher was amazing,” said Baird. “Like many of the educators I know, I feel like teaching is something that I was born to do.”
After her first year of teaching, however, Baird calculated that she spent over $1,700 on her classroom and supplies. While she loved being in the classroom with her students, she struggled with the financial commitment.
“My passion for teaching meant that I also put a lot of my own resources into my classroom,” Baird explained. “At first, I was happy and excited to purchase the supplies, especially when I thought there was a tax write-off. Unfortunately, I learned too late that the most I could write off was $250.”
Building a better way
Baird wanted to find a better, easier way for teachers to get the classroom supplies they wanted and needed without spending too much of their own money. She also wanted to help teachers save time – after all, there isn’t a lot of time for shopping for supplies following a busy day of running their classrooms, organizing their curricula and managing their families.
“It was clear that teachers need a better, more affordable way to purchase the supplies that they use in their classrooms, so I decided to build it,” said Baird.
From her personal experience and her desire to innovate, Baird created ScholarsDollar.com, an educator-only online community where teachers can buy affordable products for their classrooms and open their own stores to sell or exchange extra classroom items they no longer need.
For teachers only
Baird officially launched ScholarsDollar.com in 2018. The site is only for educators, requiring members to send in their teacher certifications before they can join. Once validated, the teachers have full access to the site and the low-cost classroom and party supplies, toys, books and other academic products.
“The initial response from teachers was overwhelming, so I knew I had something that was needed in the marketplace,” stated Baird. “While it’s challenging to teach and run a business, I am passionate about ScholarsDollar.com, and I am committed to doing something that helps educators.”
Partnering with DollarDays has shined a whole new light in terms of what I can offer my customers and community.Monica Baird, Owner & Founder, Scholars Dollar
Quality matters to teachers
As Baird was looking for places to purchase products, she came across DollarDays. DollarDays offers thousands of bulk school supplies, from colored pencils to backpacks. Since 2007, DollarDays has sold more than four million backpacks, four million pairs of scissors and 11 million boxes of crayons.
“Teachers want the best products for their classrooms because they know they will last longer and endure the many little hands that use them,” Baird explained. “Partnering with DollarDays has shined a whole new light in terms of what I can offer my customers and community.”
Saving quality teachers
Baird is building ScholarsDollar.com to be an exclusive service that educators around the country will want to join. Her online store delivers high-quality, low-cost products that teachers need for their classrooms while also developing an engaging community for educators to connect, collaborate and potentially earn money by building their own stores. Ultimately, Baird sees ScholarsDollar.com as one more way to keep good teachers in the classroom.
“We are losing too many quality educators that love teaching due to low salaries and the burden of funding their own classroom supplies,” said Baird. “I see ScholarsDollar.com as a means to help save these teachers, keep them in the classroom and benefit the lives of many children.”
She added, “The average teacher spends nearly $500 a year in classroom expenses. With DollarDays’ help, if I can help 125 teachers in Phoenix, I can collectively save them over $62,000 this school year. The opportunity to help even more teachers is exciting, and it is why I envision ScholarsDollar.com becoming the one-stop school supplies shop for educators everywhere.”