How much of your own money are you willing to spend at your job?
For decades, public school teachers on modest salaries have bridged the gap between what the students are given by school districts and the supplies and tools they actually need to learn. These teachers almost always outfit their classrooms out of their own pockets, especially in low-income areas, where the schools provide little more than four walls and a desk for their students.
Reynolds Learning Academy in Fairfield, Oregon is one such school. According to a recent assessment, 91 percent of the students experience financial hardship to the point of being eligible for subsidized school lunches as well as after-school programs that provide food and snacks for children who would otherwise return home to empty homes and empty cupboards.
Many of these programs and subsidies are facing elimination in the face of budget cuts from the Trump administration, with director of the Office of Budget Management Mick Mulvaney stating (amidst rampant statistical contradiction) that such after-school programs and, more notably, Meals on Wheels offer “no demonstrable evidence” of their efficacy or value, contradicting many studies and assertions that America’s education crisis is actually a manifestation of widespread poverty in public schools.
Reynolds Learning Academy teacher Katherine Gibson Howton is someone who sees the face of student hunger and its effects every day. She took issue with the notion that “demonstrable evidence” is needed to feed a hungry child, so she shared a photo of a cabinet at school she keeps stocked with snacks and food, not just for her students, but for any Reynolds student who’s hungry.
The image and accompanying sentiment quickly went viral, with many teachers familiar with Howton’s plight sharing the picture and offering an “amen.”
With so many teachers working so hard and spending their own money to keep students fed, Howton, in an interview with The Huffington Post, more directly attacked the rationale for the Trump administration budget cuts that would further penalize the many students who are hungry and searching for their next meal.
"That phrase, ‘There’s no demonstrable evidence’ just stuck with me. It really bothered me that an adult would say that children have to perform some trick to be fed. But mostly I felt that Mulvaney really doesn’t know what is happening in the nation’s schools.”
There’s little doubt that teachers such as Howton will not only continue but increase their efforts to keep children fed in their schools, but Howton wants the world to know that when the federal government comes up short, the teachers have quietly been taking on more responsibility so students are able to make it through the day nourished and ready to learn. She said to Scary Mommy, "They're cutting the federal safety net, and we're providing this invisible safety net that no one even knows about.”
Many may not have known before, but Howton’s account has gone a long way toward educating the public on the issue.