California educational funding is in distress. As the state scrambles to find funds for its crippled budget, in the 2012 State of the Union Address, Governor Brown proposed a “temporary” personal income tax increase and a half-cent sales tax in order to stave off deeper funding cuts. Unless approved on the fall ballot, $5.4 billion will be excised from education and public safety allocations.
Nearly 30% of Monrovia’s population is school-age children. 12.5% of its citizens live below the poverty line, and 4.4% of its citizens are unemployed. 37.5% of Monrovia households survive on incomes of $35K or less. According to 2008 data, Monrovia has 6,000 K-12 students distributed across 11 schools, and doles out an average of $9,354 per student, a figure which may, in fact, be quite out of date.
MUSD has repeatedly scrambled to address recurring financial crises, and is affected by the . Just this week, the School District had to and soundly excoriated the State. It has , and is looking at potentially charging students to school. $50 may not seem like much unless you’re one of those families living on $35K or less.
More and more teachers dig into their own pockets to fund classroom needs. Like everyone else, they have been affected by the economy and have less discretionary income to be able to help. In the 2009-2010 school year, teachers across the US shelled out $1.33 billion for school supplies. The California, per-teacher, out-of-pocket average is about $1,500 per year. 67% of science teachers reporting indicated a typical classroom budget is $500 or less.
Some may think it is not their responsibility to pay for other people’s children. Most reading may remember someone else’s taxes helped to pay for our own schools and education. I would argue education of our youth is everyone’s responsibility. Some of us believe failing to provide for the education of our young affects our country’s future ability to compete in a global economy.
So how do we reasonably solve the educational shortfall? DonorsChoose.org to the rescue! One very wise Monrovia teacher, Mrs. Povinelli at Bradoaks School, has stumbled onto this resource as a possible way to supplement the needs of her 1st and 2nd grade combination class (but she is short of her goal, and her project expires 1/30, so act quickly if you would like to help!).
DonorsChoose is a nonprofit recognized by the IRS and created by Charles Best, a high school social studies teacher in the Bronx, to connect individuals concerned about education directly with classrooms in need. It has received national acclaim and been recognized by the Wall Street Journal, CNN, and NPR. It has received funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Chase, Capital One Foundation, Chevron, the Pershing Square Foundation, and many others. My first exposure to the organization was an Oprah Winfrey show.
So, how does it work? Public school teachers across America post classroom project requests of at least $100 on the site. Requests range from pencils for a poetry writing unit, to violins for a school recital, to microscope slides for a biology class. Teachers are given “points” to be used on the site which affect the volume of projects they can submit based on performance in following site rules.
Every classroom project is vetted by the organization to ensure its validity before it is posted to the site. Once posted, those interested in supporting education can query, find a project in an area or a subject they wish to support, and make a contribution via credit card, Pay Pal, or Amazon Payments. Every donor receives a photo of the project taking place, a thank-you letter from the teacher, and, in the case of donations greater than $50, a hand-written thank you from the students themselves.
The money is not received by the teacher until the project is fully funded. If the funding goal is not achieved on time, donors are given 3 options:
- Choose a new project to support.
- Let DonorsChoose.org select a project to which the funds can be applied.
- Let the originally benefitting teacher choose a new project.
Donors have 30 days to select from these 3 options if their project is not fully funded. Money is not returned to donors but rather reapplied to some other educational endeavor.
From where I sit, requests from teachers new to the site should probably be of a smaller nature or broken into smaller bites until a dedicated donor base can be found. If I were a teacher in need, I would create a small project, post to the site, have it vetted, spread the word (here on Patch?), and announce the results in the community. If the need persists, I would then choose a slightly larger project and use available tools (Patch, Facebook, Twitter) to spread the word. By the way, Donors Choose is using both Twitter and Facebook to help spread the word.
This is a great way to invest in the future of students in our communities and projects we find of value. Why not take a few minutes and poke around the site for yourself. If inspired, you can donate as little as $1, but automatic monthly donations are eagerly encouraged.
Imagine the impacts to education if we all donated the equivalent of one cup of boutique coffee a month! DonorsChoose to support education!