You could drop into any school in America and find at least one teacher who has paid for the supplies in their classroom. Realistically, you might be more hard pressed to find a teacher who doesn't pay out-of-pocket for items in their classrooms. 2018 has seen protests from around the U.S. because schools don't seem to have what they need to create or sustain productive and functional learning environments. And while they are all talking about salaries and second jobs, the biggest bottom line impact to teachers might actually be something else: the current trade war.
A Promo Email Brought This to My Attention
Back from recent travel, I found myself sorting through way too many emails. I consider myself a master pre-sorter and organizer of my inboxes, but even I am not immune to the constant barrage of clever marketers attempting to pique my interest with catchy subject lines and questions I hadn't considered. Am I ready to take the leap? Is stress ruining my life? Do I need to consider new 3D goals? Is the trade war going to hurt Girl Scouts?" Wait, what? I opened the email, which turned out to be from the President and CEO of craft and fabric giant JOANN's.
America Is A Grassroots Nation
From our movements to our business owners, our country is full of people or groups of people who rise up from the ashes to create, to make noise, and to make change. Etsy is home to some 1.93 million sellers who make unique and beautiful treasures, and that isn't the only platform where local or individual sellers create and craft for a living or a side hustle. So what does this have to do with the current trade war? According to this latest grassroots movement:
Every day, millions of Americans use craft supplies and fabrics, such as cotton and fleece, to create handmade products right here in the United States. Under a series of proposed tariffs, the price of commonly-used craft supplies and fabrics could increase by as much as 25%.
This will unintentionally put a tax on products "Made In America" hurting crafters, and lots of other people as well.
Who Else Will Be Affected?
Churches who rely on these supplies, crafters who create blankets and quilts for homeless, hospitalized, veterans, and maternity wards, small businesses who rely on these craft supplies and fabrics, teachers who purchase supplies for their classrooms, and even Girl Scouts who often purchase items for badges and team activities. And this is really only off the top of my head. I'm sure there are plenty more people who will feel the unintended trickle down effects of these changes.
Let's Go Back to Teachers
Our schools art programs have been decimated over the past decade, replaced with testing efforts and rigid schedules aimed at preparing students for a future we can't quite see yet. But teachers who know the importance of arts have found unique ways to incorporate these programs and activities back into their curriculum. The problem is that these activities don't have support or funding and teachers often end up paying out of pocket. With already strapped budgets, and some teachers working more than one job to support their own families, this potential increase in tariffs and then ultimately price, is not going to be sustainable, and will leave plenty of teachers without options.
So What Is the Answer?
That's not some clever email subject line question, we really need answers and solutions. Jill Soltau, President and CEO of JOANN's suggests we reach out to Congress and ask them to exempt craft supplies and fabrics from proposed tariffs. Could the solution be that simple? I am no trade expert, and I am not going to pretend to know the answer. But I do know this: we have to have conversations, not just about whether or not we agree on trade, but about the people actually affected by these decisions, and what we can do to protect those who are vulnerable or overextended. And more than that, we have to think about our children, the constant recipients of the effects of decisions made by those who sit at the top of their world.