If you know anything about the plight of teachers, you know they don’t make very much money. If you know anything beyond that it’s probably that they have to spend a significant chunk of the money they make on classroom materials because of the lack of funding for schools. In 2000, a social studies teacher from the Bronx named Charles Best sought to fix this problem in his classroom and created a site called DonorsChoose.org.
DonorsChoose.org is a crowdfunding web-platform that allows people to view classroom projects or needs and pick which ones they want to fund. Donors need not pay for the entire project, they can contribute as much or as little as they want. Most of the projects have multiple smaller donations that add up to the total needed for the project. The platform lets you search by types of campaigns, supplies, grade, or even geographical area. A painter can choose to fund an art project. An engineer can purchase math materials for a classroom. A church can streamline their donations to a local school. The platform specializes in connecting potential donors with projects and campaigns that interest them.
This sounds great, right? Who could take issue with teachers working on their own to solicit donations for materials and projects when schools funding is lacking? Apparently, there are some school districts, and the number is growing.
Some school districts have started banning teachers from using DonorsChoose.org. Their main issue: Oversight. Districts claim that it can be difficult to track how money is distributed and spent. They also cite difficulty in determining whether or not the donated items are aligned with standards and regulations.
To be fair to the districts that have made this decision, it was usually made under the guise of banning teachers from “crowdfunding” in the name of the district. When making these rules the main site that came to mind was probably GoFundMe. Schools didn’t want teachers lining their pockets or getting electronics for personal use under the districts name, so a blanket ban was placed on the entire concept of crowd-funding put in place. Unfortunately, sites like DonorsChoose.org fall into that category too.
Here’s why these policies don’t make sense for DonorsChoose.org.
- Donors Choose doesn’t simply “give” the money to the teachers. When a funding goal is reached DonorsChoose.org purchases the items and then ships them to the school.
- There are accountability systems built into the platform already. Projects are vetted and line item breakdowns are required.
- Since last year, the platform has been able to incorporate district regulations and guidelines with projects…if the district provides them.
- If school districts are concerned about teachers using the donations for nefarious purposes, then they should simply require teachers to go through the extra step of getting their projects approved by the district or their school instead of banning them altogether. It can be done by the same person who reimburses teachers for the money they spend already.
The truth is that schools are underfunded, and teachers usually make up that gap. Schools are not in a position to turn down resources from willing donors, and school districts should not force teachers to turn down people who want to help them. Raising money has become a key part of a teacher’s job, and if school districts aren’t going to help, the least they can do is not get in the way.