Professional Learning

6 Secrets to Affording Professional Development on a Teacher’s Budget

For many teachers, it’s the thrill of helping children learn, not the paycheck, that leads them to the profession. While a less-than-stellar paycheck isn’t news, the struggle to find affordable and worthwhile professional development is. Since its beginning, AOE has always been committed to delivering affordable PD to art teachers, including numerous free resources like daily articles, lesson plans, and most recently, the AOE LIVE podcast.

If you’ve exhausted these resources and are looking for more, but aren’t quite sure how to swing the costs, this article is for you! Based on my experience working with teachers from all over the country and world, here are 6 great ideas to help you cut costs.

Affordable PD

1. Seek out district funds.

Did you know that district money is often set aside for teachers to apply towards PD? Unfortunately, they often won’t broadcast this fact and you’ll need to know who and how to ask. Your school secretary or accounts clerk should be able to tell you about available funds and any limitations tied to them. Some schools will offer to cover the entire cost while others may only be able to give a small portion. As you well know, school budgets are in constant flux. Last year’s “no” may be this year’s “yes.” It never hurts to ask!

2. Split the cost of a class with your district.

Sometimes, if a school can’t budget the entire cost, they’ll simply say “no”. The trouble is, there may be funds available, just not in the amount you’re requesting. Splitting the cost between a school and an educator is an agreement that happens more frequently than you’d probably think!

3. Utilize crowdfunding platforms.

Crowdfunding platforms (DonorsChoose, Kickstarter, GoFundMe, Indiegogo) give you the opportunity to share your needs and wants with others who can help make those dreams a reality. No donation is too small (or too big!).

4. Use AOE in place of scheduled district PD days.

Ask your administrators to take a class or attend one of our online conferences (the next one is July 16th!) instead of attending your district’s scheduled PD days. Not only will your time be much better spent, but you’ll also receive a significant portion of PD hours that could be used towards license renewal! We’ve had many individuals utilize the Conference After Pass as an alternative to PD days throughout the school year, as it’s good for 6 months after the conference date. Learn more here.

5. Take some classes for no credit.

At half the cost, you’ll learn the same valuable information while saving yourself some money.

6. Take the time to apply for free funds.

Thanks to a generous grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, has launched a Professional Development Pilot to help eligible teachers fund projects for their own PD. Currently, eligible projects can receive the half-off match offer, but once funds are gone, they’re gone! Some money towards PD is always better than no money towards PD!
Hopefully, this list has offered some relief and possibly even sparked other creative ideas to afford PD! We know it can be overwhelming and are here to help. Feel free to send us a quick email to learn more and chat about your current situation at

What are some other ways you’ve helped lower the cost of PD?

What PD has given you the most “bang for your buck”?


Magazine articles and podcasts are opinions of professional education contributors and do not necessarily represent the position of the Art of Education University (AOEU) or its academic offerings. Contributors use terms in the way they are most often talked about in the scope of their educational experiences.


Jessica Balsley

Jessica Balsley is AOEU’s Founder and a former AOEU Writer and elementary art educator. She is passionate about helping art teachers enhance their lives and careers through relevant professional development.

More from Jessica