Tennessee Education Association

Great Public Schools for All Students


Working extra jobs to buy classroom supplies? We want to hear your story.

Decisions made by legislators in Nashville are forcing teachers to hold more than one job just to make ends meet. Teachers like Kathryn Vaughn are working multiple jobs on top of teaching because they are unable to survive on a teacher’s salary.

“I love my students and I love teaching, but I can’t afford lunch most days and I have to buy my own hand soap,” said Vaughn, who teaches art at Brighton Elementary School in Tipton. “When it rains, it rains in my classroom. I once received FEMA money when I lost everything in my closet. But you can’t rely on FEMA every time it rains.”

Vaughn spends roughly $3,000 a year of her own money to provide school supplies for her students. 

“I teach 800 students from pre-K to fifth grade at a Title 1 school on a $200-a-year budget for school supplies,” Vaughn said. “When I’m at Cordell Hull in Nashville, I’m amazed at how out of touch our legislators are. That is why I’m coming to the Rally for Our Schools on March 16 in Nashville – because it’s our legislature’s job to fund our public schools!”

When Vaughn isn’t teaching her elementary school students, or her community college students, or working for the local paper, or working for parks and recreation, she sits in a Walmart parking lot trying to sell her jewelry on the phone. 

Last year, Vaughn took photos of the dried-out markers she soaked to make watercolors for her students and sent them to The New York Times.

“I was lucky The Times ran the piece about us, and we received donations from all over the world,” Vaughn said. “We shouldn’t have to rely on parents and philanthropic organizations to do our state government’s job.” 

Vaughn’s message to the state’s lawmakers is simple: We do our jobs as educators in Tennessee; please do yours, and fund our schools. 

Please share your Tennessee school funding story on TEA social media or email it to asmirnov@tnea.org

Pictured: Kathryn Vaughn with her students in December 2019. 

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