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Over the past several weeks, teachers strikes have broken out in states like Oklahoma, West Virginia and Kentucky. While a living wage is a big concern, so too is the fact that many teachers pay out of pocket to provide supplies to their classroom. The funds offered by their district doesn’t cover nearly enough supplies for students throughout the year.

Recently, The New York Times compiled photographic evidence of these dire conditions. Textbooks older than the students were held together by tape, the information in their pages wildly out of date. One classroom had both leaks and wasps to deal with. In another underfunded classroom, an art teacher made watercolor paints for her students by draining the leftover ink from markers. Another teacher had to make the desks for his own classroom since he was given no furniture.

This is not a problem endemic to one school district, one state or region. The photos came from around the country from states like Arizona, Tennessee, Michigan, Colorado and Massachusetts. One story from Oklahoma revealed a 7-year-old student was now using the same textbook once owned by country star Blake Shelton. It’d be a cute story if he wasn’t almost six times her age and the nearly 40-year-old book wasn’t full of outdated information.

Fundraisers and school supply drives are only short-term solutions that help a limited number of students and teachers. If libraries shelves are empty and computer classes filled with dozens of kids are forced to share only six computers, that too affects the quality of their education.

Ensuring teachers are paid a living wage and given the budget to buy the equipment, books and supplies they need to do their job is essential to providing a free public education for children across the United States.

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