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Patch Blog: DonorsChoose--An Easy Way to Donate to Local Schools

DonorsChoose.org helps to connect those who know the value of a quality education and want to help with schools in need. Find out why you should help and how easy it really is to do!

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distributed across 11 schools, and doles out an average of $9,354 per student, a figure which may, in fact, be quite out of date.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:

  1. Choose a new project to support.
  2. Let DonorsChoose.org select a project to which the funds can be applied.
  3. 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!

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Tom Adams January 26, 2012 at 04:30 PM
Gayle, great article packed with valuable information. Thanks for all of your time on this, as with others. You are always looking to make things a little better than you find them.
Gayle M. Montgomery January 26, 2012 at 05:35 PM
Thank you, Tom, as always, for your kind words of support. I believe you get one life and are responsible to help where it is within your ability to do so. I may never build a monument, but I hope to clear a little debris along the way. It's that old Girl Scout thing. A Girl Scout always leaves a place better than when she found it. By the way, it's cookie time (smile). I'm currently assisting my favorite Daisy Scout.
Gayle M. Montgomery January 26, 2012 at 06:28 PM
UPDATE: It looks like there is great news! I queried for Mrs. Povinelli's project. It is no longer there. Unless she asked to take it down, it would appear to me that her project met its goal. Thank you, Patch readers!
Heather S. January 26, 2012 at 06:42 PM
YAY for Mrs. Povinelli's Class and everyone out there who can help to support our youth. It is a sad state we are in indeed.
Gayle M. Montgomery January 26, 2012 at 06:52 PM
Thank you, Heather! Please help share the word about DonorsChoose to teachers and on social media so that more classrooms can be helped!
Robert Parry January 26, 2012 at 07:25 PM
I couldn't find any Monrovia schools listed.
Gayle M. Montgomery January 26, 2012 at 07:29 PM
Robert, one project was listed, but seemingly was funded in the last 24 hours and removed from the site. Please check back to the site, and help let make our teachers aware. I had originally titled the story, "Pin This Note to Your Teacher's Shirt." Thank you for caring and for checking out the site. Hopefully, more teachers will catch on and list their needs.
Tonya January 27, 2012 at 02:22 PM
Thanks, Gayle. Great article. Didn't know about Donorschoose.org will be looking into it!
Gayle M. Montgomery January 27, 2012 at 03:10 PM
Excellent, Tonya! Thanks for the feedback!
Christina Crabtree February 01, 2012 at 05:19 PM
I am a Bradoaks parent, on campus every day and am actively involved in the PTA, yet this is the FIRST time I am hearing about this?! Clearly we need to do a better job of spreading the word on campus and at every school meeting. Thanks for sharing this great resource! Kudos to Mrs. Povinelli and all who donated.
Heather S. February 01, 2012 at 05:21 PM
I had never heard of it either - that's why I posted this article on the Bradoaks PTA FB page....
Gayle M. Montgomery February 01, 2012 at 07:56 PM
Thank you to both Christina and Heather for the feedback. It's why I wrote the blog. Being the stepchild of an educator, I know how hard they work and, as a grandmother of 4, am going broke funding everything that would have been funded for me as a child. It's important to get this resource into the hands of all educators. When I shared it with my stepmom, a retired special education teacher who indicated her initial classroom budget was $400 and stayed there all the while she taught, never rising, she immediately passed it on to teacher friends she knows and dug in to look to see if there were projects she could fund. I have never met Mrs. Povinelli, but I was glad to see she was funded.
Gayle M. Montgomery February 01, 2012 at 07:58 PM
By the way, to our PTA members, here's how I see you could help in the process. Besides spreading the word to our teachers, why not be proactive. Do much of the legwork for the teacher so (s)he doesn't have to carry the full burden. Ask what they need funding, come up with the budget after researching the matter, write the documentation, then provide it to the teacher in electronic form so that (s)he can correct your papers (smile), making any changes that are necessary, and submit it to DonorsChoose. Once the project has been vetted and posted, the teacher could then let you know, and you can help to spread the word through your various networks. It would be a win/win situation.
Gayle M. Montgomery February 01, 2012 at 08:00 PM
By the way, closer to Valentine's day, I will be blogging about a free, must-have, safety app for all parents. Watch for that article in a couple of weeks.

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