I’m embarrassed and ashamed to live in a country where DonorsChoose.org is a thing.

For the uninitiated, DonorsChoose.org is a web site where teachers can describe projects that “need your help to bring their classroom dreams to life.” Then visitors to the site can donate any amount towards the realization of those “dreams.” This is called crowd-funding. One can hardly criticize the generosity of donors or the needs of teachers.

Recently, DonorsChoose.org led a public campaign called #bestschoolday.

On March 10, 2016, more than 50 athletes, artists, entrepreneurs, and philanthropists joined forces to fund thousands of classroom projects across America on DonorsChoose.org. Their generosity funded over $14 million in projects spanning communities in 47 states and Washington, D.C.”

The Huffington Post created a special section dedicated to the #bestschoolday campaign and sold ads against it.

I despise the idea of reducing teachers to beggars. It’s a distraction from all the other important work teachers have to do It reduces their value and the perceived worth of public education with each round of fundraising.

The conditions addressed by Donorschoose are not the result of a hurricane or epidemic, but of democratically determined public policy and neglect.

”Charity is no substitute for justice withheld.” – St. Augustine

Many well-meaning educators and citizens were excited when film sweetheart Anna Kendrick appeared on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert to sing a delightful duet and to announce that she (with the help of a secret donor) were going to fund all 74 of Maine’s current Donorschoose projects.

Why doesn’t Mr. Colbert use his considerable talent and valuable airtime to ask Pennsylvania, Detroit, or Michigan to fund their schools adequately? Why not stand with striking teachers?

“One other problem with Donorschoose is that it creates lone wolf teachers getting goodies for one classroom in a school.” – Gary Stager

Corporations who assuage their guilt by matching individual donations or fully-funding a teacher’s ‘dream” are also likely to seek tax breaks, employ lobbyists, and find loopholes to avoid paying their fair share for living in a democratic and just society. CBS made money when Anna Kendrick appeared to demonstrate her grand gesture of public philanthropy

It is one thing to fundraise for a once-in-a-lifetime field trip or fantastic piece of equipment your school could never afford. It’s quite another to create the conditions under which teachers are forced to rattle a virtual tin cup online.

The following is an image from a quick Donorschoose search for crayon. Such vulgarity should not be viewed as a celebration of celebrity largesse, but as a symptom of society in decay. Under no circumstances should professional public school educators be begging publicly for crayons.

Screen Shot 2016-03-11 at 2.36.34 PM

Click here to fund this or other teacher requests.

That’s right. American public school teachers are now required to run fundraising campaigns so their students may have access to crayons!


One other problem with Donorschoose is that it creates lone wolf teachers getting goodies for one classroom in a school. Not only does that have the potential to create further disparity in an already inequitable system, but may also create unanticipated problems. For example, I have seen instances where a half-dozen teachers in the same school each request different kinds of technology – one asks for iPads, one PC laptops, one MacBooks, and another Chromebooks. This could create potential nightmares for school infrastructure and support.

Ways to Take Action!

  • Drop off an Amazon gift card in any denomination you can afford at your local school.
  • Ask your children’s teachers what they need. If you cannot afford to buy what they need, ask the school principal to fund it. You might be surprised by the outcome.
  • Work with your school parent/teacher organization to organize fundraising events that are fun, educational in nature, showcase the talents of children and bring the community together.
  • Request the full budget (not summary) from your public school district. It’s your right under law. Study the document and learn where the money is being spent or misspent.
  • Attend public school board meetings and urge constructive spending or the reorganizing of priorities.
  • Collaborate with local arts institutions to arrange tours or performances for local public school students.
  • Volunteer in a classroom or lead after-school activities.
  • Run for election to your local public school board.
  • Go ahead. Be a mensch and make a generous donation via Donorschoose.


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In addition to being a veteran teacher educator, popular speaker, journalist, author, and publisher, Gary is co-author of the bestselling book called the “bible of the maker movement in schools”, Invent To Learn — Making, Tinkering, and Engineering in the Classroom. He also leads the Constructing Modern Knowledge summer institute and is Publisher at CMK Press.

There has been some extraordinary news recently that has received very little attention in the United States or coverage by our news media. For the past two months, Australia has experienced cataclysmic flooding. The most devastated region was the State of Queensland where an area the size of France AND Germany, or larger than the State of Texas, was underwater! Imagine that!

Infrastructure, crops, homes, schools, businesses were destroyed in a State representing 20% of the nation’s economy. Thirty-five people died. 5% of the world’s steelmaking coal exports have been removed from the world market. Soon after Queensland, the States of Victoria and New South Wales were also ravaged by flooding.

So, the first extraordinary news is that one of our closest allies has been flooding for two months and most Americans know very little about it.

The second bit of news should be at least as extraordinary to Americans. The Prime Minister and Federal Parliament announced yesterday a one-time tax levy designed to cover some of the reconstruction costs incurred by the floods. Australians earning between $50,000 and $100,000 per year will be assessed an additional 0.5 percent of their income. Australians earning more than $100,000 per year will pay an additional 1% of their income to contribute towards the massive rebuilding costs.

Australians earning less than $50,000/year OR who were victims of the flooding pay nothing.

Imagine that happening in the United States of America? Our infrastructure is crumbling and our neighbors are in need. Should the Congress decides to raise taxes for the common good? Fuggetaboutit!

Hell, we just gave an estate tax bonanza of $25,000,000,000 to 6,000 rich families and extended tax cuts to millionaire and billionaires who use teams of accountants and off-shore accounts to avoid paying taxes in the first place.

If a great American city is wiped out by a flood, we wait until Leighton Meester holds a telethon or Justin Bieber organizes a bake sale. Quick! Call a Kardashian! Surely, Jessica Simpson can save the day!

Government is to be avoided at all costs. Charity uber alles!

Last night, I was listening to the BBC coverage of the Aussie flood tax levy and the program interviewed an economist from the Westpac Bank (a major Australian bank). He casually referred to a person earning $150,000 per year as HIGH INCOME! President Obama is attacked  for attempting to define $250,000 as the upper limit of being MIDDLE CLASS! The American mythology causes voters to act against their own self-interest based on the fantasy that we will each be a billionaire any day now.