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Arizona teachers eligible for $14 million in classroom COVID relief grants

Superintendent of Public Instruction Kathy Hoffman has announced the Arizona Department of Education will distribute $14 million in federal COVID-19 relief funds directly to teachers K-12 public school teachers to help with classroom initiatives. 

The grants will be dispersed through the DonorsChoose web site. 

The collaboration between ADE and the crowd-funding operation is the largest of its kind in the nation. Teachers can apply through the site for grants of up to $1,000 in classroom money. 

About a quarter million Arizona public school teachers are expected to receive the grant funding.

The federal money was made available in 2020 from the first two tranches of coronavirus relief. Millions of more dollars remain to be distributed.  

Hoffman said she considers the grants a "thank you" to Arizona teachers after two years of upheaval in the wake of the pandemic.

"Arizona educators have gone above and beyond for their students during the most challenging years our public schools have ever faced," Hoffman said. "While this is not a substitute for much-needed wage increases, I am honored to support our teachers with direct classroom funding. I have no doubt teachers across our state will immediately put these resources to good use in supporting the needs of Arizona's students."

The funding will go to pay for classroom essentials, said Alli Rai, a teacher at Agua Fria High School in Avondale. 

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"DonorsChoose has allowed me to provide opportunities, essentials, and extras to my students that were not within my normal classroom or school budget. By doing so, this has allowed me to be the best teacher possible to my students, and has allowed my students to grow and thrive in ways I could have only have imagined," Rai said.

Arizona teachers have a history of having to pay for classroom supplies out of their own pockets, as the state lags the nation in school funding.

DonorsChoose was started in 2000 and has raised $24 million to help 14,000 teachers improve learning opportunities that public funding won't stretch far enough to provide. 

The money isn't coming from the non-profit but its web site is the portal through which teachers to apply for grants.

The state education department will begin funding eligible requests on a first-come, first-served basis beginning March 8, 2022, and for as long as funding is available. 

Educators can learn how to create an eligible DonorsChoose project by visiting www.azed.gov/teachergrants.

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Federal money headed to Arizona classrooms a big "thank you" to teachers who had to weather the coronavirus pandemic.