AFT launches “Essentials for Kids” to provide free supplies to schools: Educators and kids affected by Hurricane Harvey will be initial focus

See below for information on how to apply.

The American Federation of Teachers, First Book, and the Barbara Bush Houston Literacy Foundation Wednesday launched a targeted effort to deliver brand-new books and basic-needs items, in coordination with first responders, educators and volunteers, to areas devastated by Hurricane Harvey. The partners simultaneously announced the Essentials for Kids Fund, a national initiative aimed at addressing the need for books, educational resources and basic-needs items for educators and their students in districts where the public schools are severely underfunded.

The Essentials for Kids Fund is currently seeded with $200,000, including $75,000 from AFT and $75,000 from the Barbara Bush Houston Literacy Foundation, with additional funding from Coca-Cola and individual donors. AFT has set aside $25,000 of its contribution specifically for Harvey-affected educators, and 100 percent of the Barbara Bush Houston Literacy Foundation funds will be designated to help rebuild classroom libraries and provide other resources for Houston-area educators affected by the hurricane.

The fund is actively accepting donations and has included an option for crowdfunding campaigns to support specific areas. Crowdfunding efforts are already underway by AFT affiliates in Baltimore; Toledo, Ohio; and Socorro, Texas; and by First Book supporters in Charlotte, N.C. The partners are also continuing to monitor Hurricane Irma and will be prepared to meet the needs of others affected by disaster.

“A union is a family, and we are doing what we can to help educators and students deal with the impact of Hurricane Harvey,” said AFT president Randi Weingarten. “That includes supporting them through the long process of rebuilding and starts with restocking their schools and classrooms. We’re also stepping up to help educators across the country who dig into their own wallets to make sure their classrooms are stocked with basics and their students have a warm jacket, school supplies, food or even basic hygiene products like shampoo. The Essentials for Kids Fund offers direct help to educators serving kids in need, and 100 percent of the funds raised will go to providing educators what they need to teach and kids what they need to learn.”

With 35 states still spending less on public education than before the recession, educators spend an average of $600 a year of their own money to make up for inadequate public school funding to ensure their students have access to necessary learning materials.

Educators can access the fund at various levels:

  • AFT members serving Title I or Title I-eligible schools or programs can receive grants of up to $150 to spend on the First Book Marketplace, which offers such items as brand-new high-quality books, hygiene kits, sports equipment, and clothing, at 50 to 90 percent below retail prices. Non-AFT educators can receive grants of up to $100. Grants will be available on a first-come, first-served basis until the fund is depleted.
  • Educators affected by Harvey can receive up to $200 in First Book Marketplace credits until the fund is depleted.

All educators are eligible for funds if 70 percent or more of the kids they serve are from low-income communities or are affected by Hurricane Harvey.

To apply for the First Book grants, educators should:

1)     If not already members of the First Book network, complete the free registration at

2)     Once registered First Book will send email correspondence outlining coupon codes to access books and supplies for free, up to the grant amounts.

Donations to the fund and additional crowdsourced campaigns are being accepted at

You can read more about Essentials for Kids on the AFT Website.