Twitter founder Jack Dorsey made a splash this month when he announced he would fund all Missouri teachers' projects on the education crowd-funding site DonorsChoose.org. The gift bought classroom supplies — everything from Chromebooks to crayons— for about 600 educators statewide.
But Kansas City's Kauffman Foundation wants metro teachers to know there's still a sizeable pot of money out there for local DonorsChoose projects in both Missouri and Kansas. How much? Try $95,000.
Since November, the Foundation has been matching half the cost of classroom projects submitted by teachers at low-income schools in the metro on DonorsChoose. Before Dorsey's donation, the Foundation had spent about $100,000 on more than 400 local projects submitted to the site. (Dorsey's donation alone completed funding for 81 metro-area projects last month.)
The ideas for what is needed in each classroom come from teachers. The money for those ideas then comes from anyone who wants to donate through the DonorsChoose site. Typically, teachers get help from family and friends but oftentimes complete strangers donate, as well.
The resources that are purchased become the property of the school though the teacher who created the project gets to use whatever is bought for his/her classroom.
"Teachers are really excited they get to come up with their own ideas," says Jacqueline Russell, who helps manage the DonorsChoose match program with the Kauffman Foundation. "Funding for schools is hard and teachers have a really tough job. They want curriculum and materials that help learning come alive for students."
In the metro right now, that includes projects that would provide stability balls for wiggly kinesthetic learners at Johnson Elementary in Kansas City or aquariums and terrariums for a science class at Ruskin High School.
"But I don't think all teachers know about the opportunity. Some schools use it a lot, you see their names and projects all the time on the site. But we want to make sure all schools know this is available," Russell says.
Dorsey, a St. Louis native, donated as part of a coordinated "flash funding" effort by celebrities dubbed #BestSchoolDay. Actor Ashton Kutcher made a similar statewide commitment in Iowa. Tennis star Serena Williams made a more localized donation to her native Compton, California.
Russell says despite the recent celebrity-fueled attention, DonorsChoose has for years enabled teachers to buy seemingly small but important classroom resources funded through "collaborative, community" efforts.
"You go on to one project and you'll see 13 different people have donated. That's the best part," says Russell.
Russell says the funds will be distributed by the Kauffman Foundation as long as there is money in the $95,000 pot to be spent. She says all they need are teachers to submit projects.
Teachers can visit the Kauffman Foundation's site for matching DonorsChoose grant projects here.
A former teacher, Kyle Palmer is KCUR's morning newscaster and reporter. You can follow him on Twitter @kcurkyle.