The Issue: Teachers Covering Supplies Out-of-Pocket
During the 2012–2013 school year, public school teachers spent more than $1.6 billion out-of-pocket on school supplies and instructional materials, according to an article in The Journal. Individual teachers spent an average of $485 of their own money on resources that included software and paper-based teaching aids, pencils, paper, and arts-and-crafts supplies. The ongoing pinch of the recession has affected teachers as much as their schools’ budgets, making it more difficult for children to benefit from imaginative and engaging lessons.
The Campaign: Funding Projects for Schoolchildren
For every $10 you donate to this Grassroots campaign, you will receive a $20 online credit to use on DonorsChoose.org, thanks to matching donations from Groupon. All donations up to a $25,000 total will be matched. Groupon customers can use their online credit on the DonorsChoose.org website to fund a classroom project of their choice, including those that explore the joy of reading and how gardening impacts health and the environment. Schoolteachers post individual projects on the website, requesting funds for activities and supplies, such as museum field trips, a science-magazine subscription, and a digital camera to produce films.
As a high-school history teacher in the Bronx for five years, Charles Best said he and his colleagues spent a lot of their own money on necessary basic supplies, such as copy paper and pencils, yet they still saw students going without materials. He thought members of the public would donate money to classroom projects if they could see where their money was going, so he created the crowd-funding website DonorsChoose.org. There, public- and charter-school teachers post projects that need funding, and the site collects donations from across the country. We spoke to Best about the organization’s history, mission, and accomplishments.
Best had a website, but no outside donors. His aunt funded the first project, “but I had another 10 that I funded myself because I didn’t know any more donors. Because I donated to my colleagues’ projects anonymously, they mistakenly thought the website really worked and that there were all these donors just waiting on the site to fulfill teachers’ classroom dreams.”
“The most touching stories are projects that get funded by donors who give awesome reasons for why they’re supporting those projects,” Best said. “Everything from a teacher requesting a set of Dr. Seuss books funded by a donor who was reading that very same book to their kid last night to a teacher requesting the materials for a shark-dissection project funded by someone who really believes in students getting to do hands-on science.”
Matching Donors and Interests
“There are 40,000 classroom-project requests live on our site in need of funding. That means a donor can express a really personal passion—the town where they grew up or the sport they played in high school or their favorite author—and find classroom projects that match that passion.”
Best said DonorsChoose.org’s quantitative goal is for one million people to give $100 million to projects at 100% of the country’s high-poverty public schools in one school year. The other goal is to open up its data so people can see the most requested resources in each city and state. “The data is generated by all the projects that teachers are creating on the site, so it’s giving a voice to teachers at the budget-making table.”