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March 11, 2012

The single easiest way to help your struggling school

By Leslie Crawford, Senior Editor

This story would be sad, except it’s so sadly ordinary. My daughter’s public school has no money. Or as the principal announced at a recent PTA meeting, “We’re ass broke.”

How ass broke are we? During the meeting, we agonized over the school’s busted popcorn machine that we desperately needed as a way to raise money for the next fund-raising event. But it cost $170 for a new one. Finally, two noble parents offered to buy it so we could move on to worry about more pressing needs, like affording teaching assistants and after care and basic supplies.

Yup, it’s shame-worthy, the never-ending hand-wringing and scrounging for the simplest needs that public school must engage in. There’s nothing I can do to change the dire straights schools are.

Or maybe I can. This week, my daughter’s teacher told me something remarkable: when she really needs something for the classroom, she doesn’t hold a bake sale in hopes that they raise enough for a new carpet the kids can sit on during circle time. She posts it at DonorsChoose.org. Here's what's really incredible: thanks to the generosity of donors, usually she gets what she needs.

I’d heard of DonorsChoose but confess I never used it. So today I went to the site, found my daughter’s school, and saw they need a few cots and sheets so when kids feel ill, they have a place to lie down.

Want to help your school but don’t have time to volunteer? No problem. You don’t even need to get up out of your chair. Just go here, click the big green button the reads, "Search projects," on the next page type in your school and city at "Keyword," then make a donation. There, wasn't that easy?


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Why do so many think if a school, or some aspect of life has a problem, the solution is "donate"?
The tougher solution, in one word, is "communicate".
A three word answer is "communicate with parents".
So many parents complain that one of the downfalls of the public school system is lack of communication.
So many teachers are deathly afraid to call parents.
I would think that among the inservice training programs that are offered to teachers is "How to communicate with Parents" or the "importance of parental communication".
Every time I get a parent to meet with me and his/her child face to face, change occurs. The more often I talk/share with that parent, the more the child improves.

Oh...and that improvement in communication does NOT include using profanity. Being "ass" broke is a sign that a communication failure has occurred.

I love the idea of getting projects funded, but the frugal part of me sees some difficulty with DonorsChoose. The 15% donation to their organization isn't that obvious--and inflates the project costs. I've had to show parents/teachers how to opt-out so their donation goes further. Secondly, after making a donation for a project at my daughter's school, I found the supplies requested in the dollar bin at Target--for truly 1/5 the price.

The upside for parents who know to look for "coupon codes" is that there are very often matching funds out there. So each donation goes further. They do immediately encourage matching funds from employers, which is great for parents that work at corporations that offer that, which adds to the project again.

I'd prefer if a school offered a "wish list" in the office so parents can either make a financial donation or donate products in kind, but if Donors Choose help create microphilanthropists everywhere, then it's doing something good.

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