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!

USA! USA! USA!

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.

Resources:

— — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — -

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.

From Whitehouse.gov

On July 18th, the President hosted an education roundtable with key leaders in both the private and public sectors to discuss ways we can ensure a competitive American workforce.

After all, education is about creating competitive members of the workforce, say like the President’s children or the private school darlings of the executives throwing table scraps to America’s public school students. President Obama’s administration has done great violence to America’s children and their teachers through Race-to-the-Top, endless union-busting, teacher-bashing, charter school utopianism and non-sensical get-tough rhetoric unimagined by the Bush administration.

So, rather than keep his word to stand with public school children and their teachers, save teacher jobs or advance a progressive education policy, President Obama invited fat-cat oligarchs to the White House to congratulate them for their pathetic self-serving acts of charity.

The President celebrates the largesse of corporate executives sitting on trillions of dollars worth of savings thanks to the extension of the Bush tax cuts and off-shore money-laundering. Not only do these corporate “leaders” enjoy the gift of the Presidential photo-op and tax-deductibility for their charitable efforts, but the money they pledged is categorical. That means that the corporate executives who have already been setting national policy since A Nation-at-Risk get to determine how the paltry sums will be used.

There is zero-tolerance for pedagogical solutions proposed by qualified educators. The corporate “school as business” fantasies must be followed blindly despite a consistent track record of failure.

Don’t believe me? I suggest you read:

Here is a partial list of suggested alternatives for President Obama the next time he wants to host a corporate bake sale for schools at the White House.

  1. Tell the corporate executives to pay their damned taxes
  2. Ask executives to stop demanding tax abatements in communities where they place corporate facilities
  3. Ask corporate bigwigs to ensure that every American children receive a public school education modeled on the educational experience you purchase for your own children
  4. Require corporations to pay a living wage to the parents of American school children
  5. Support universal health care for America’s children
  6. Stop laying-off Americans while making record profits
  7. Stop corporations from forcing college graduates to work as unpaid interns
  8. Remind corporate geniuses like Eli Broad that schools have little to learn from the corporate leadership lessons of AIG, the company whose Board of Directors he served on until AIG nearly tanked the US economy.
  9. Ask Bill Gates to apologize for Zune, Bob, Windows Vista, Microsoft TV, Microsoft’s labor history, the disastrous Philadelphia School of the “Future” and using America’s public school system as his personal model train set.