A Funder Partners With DonorsChoose.org to Help Classroom Teachers?

Standardized testing has become prevalent in the U.S. education system, but access to supplies and technology in the classroom is anything but standard. In 2015, 91 percent of teachers shelled out their own money for supplies due to inadequate funding. Per-pupil spending tends to be lower in poorer schools as compared to schools with more advantaged students in the same district, creating a greater burden on educators in low-income areas.

Now, a new partnership is creating a hybrid of grant money and crowdfunding to finance educational projects in low-income public schools in the greater Kansas City area. The Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation is committing $200,000 to match donations made on the charitable website DonorsChoose.org, which will go directly to items that teachers desperately need.

Teachers in schools where at least 40 percent of the students receive free/reduced-price lunches can post requests for projects that cost under $1,000, and each dollar pledged by individuals will be matched by Kauffman. As of today, there are 40 projects in the funding stage and $32,287 has been raised. DonorsChoose.org estimates that 13,000 students will benefit from this program.

Seeking a range of products, including technology such iPads and GoPros and basics such as dry-erase markers and books, educators aim to help their students with science, math, reading, art, and other subjects. "My students need ball chairs as flexible seating for our Maker's Space/Science Lab, as they currently do not have any chairs or stools available," writes a teacher at Westview Elementary School in Missouri. Another is requesting funding for binders because her students can't afford their own school supplies.

To kick-start the community's involvement in the fundraising, the Kauffman Foundation will hand out 2,500 gift cards at local events this winter. Each $30 card bankrolls the project of the recipient's choosing.

"This is a great opportunity for the Kansas City community to rally around its teachers and to help fund classroom projects that will engage students," said Aaron North, Vice President of Education at the Kauffman Foundation.

DonorsChoose.org has been around since 2000, raising $369 million for American public schools. About 70 percent of projects posted on the website are successfully funded.

The Kauffman Foundation, founded in the mid-1960s, focuses on education and entrepreneurship. We wrote last year about the Kansas City-based organization's efforts to repair its relationship with its home city following a growing perception that the foundation was shifting focus away from local philanthropy. This new program will funnel money directly into area schools, assuaging those concerns and attempting to keep thousands of children from being left behind.