(Bloomberg) -- America’s schools have nowhere near the money they need to reopen safely in the pandemic. To bail themselves out, districts are tapping some unlikely benefactors: the nation’s 3.5 million teachers.
In Columbus, Georgia, Amber Dumbuya is spending more than $1,000, much of it out-of-pocket, to fortify her high school literature classroom. Like the proprietor of her own stationery store, she’s stocking up on dry-erase boards, pencil pouches, highlighters, floor cushions and metal stools. That way, her seniors can study in socially distant pods. 
“It’s a tough place to be,” said Dumbuya, whose own son starts kindergarten this year. “And then you get the guilt because that’s money that could have gone toward your 5-year-old and their school supplies.”
Facing shortages, many teachers feel they have no choice but to pay for masks, disinfectant and all manner of items for socially distanced and remote classrooms. So they find themselves in an unenviable position: They bear the health risk of returning to work, and they must subsidize classroom reopening while politicians fight over how much money is needed to do it right.
Teachers have long accepted what amounts to a hidden tax for school supplies. Each year, from their own savings, they spend on average almost $500 for extra pencils, paper and other school supplies, federal data show.
But this school year, if every teacher spends just $100 more, the tab will easily top $2 billion. That’s a conservative assumption. In Georgia, Dumbuya needs more than three times the usual sum, even though classes are only starting virtually this month and may —or may not — be in person in September. To pay some of her expenses she’s fundraising online.
In a socially distanced or remote classroom, teachers are finding that typically shared items — pens, pencils, scissors, books and other learning materials — will now be needed for each child.
Many teachers are mothers asked to return to classrooms of dubious safety while quietly helping make up for deficits. More than three-quarters of U.S. public school teachers are women. At 29, Dumbuya makes roughly $47,000 a year before taxes, health care and mandatory retirement contributions. 
“One of the worst kept secrets is that classrooms are funded in large part by what CONTINUE READING: Teachers Pay for  PPE So U.S. Schools Can Reopen - BNN Bloomberg