Should the public school system switch to a private giving model?

Charles Best founded DonorsChoose.org at Wings Academy, a public high school in the Bronx where he was a social studies teacher for five years. He thought up DonorsChoose.org during a lunch conversation with colleagues, and his students volunteered to help start the organization. To entice his fellow teachers to try out the new website, Charles offered them his mother's famous pear dessert. DonorsChoose.org has been growing since.
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TRANSCRIPT

Question: Should the public school system switch to a private giving model?

Charles Best: Well I think the Libertarian party candidate for president about 4 years ago, advocated replacing the public school system with DonorChoose.org and having just private match-up between donors and classroom. We do not agree with that at all. If anything we hope that DonorsChoose.org is going to be a prompt, a nudge in the side of the public school system to improve and to start delivering these materials and experiences that students need and to make it easier for teachers to innovate. Half of the projects on our website go beyond what you would expect the government to provide. The field trip to Washington DC to see the supreme court argue a case, the salmon hatchery or the set of owl pellets to go along with reading Harry Potter and learning about owls, but another half of the projects on our website do make the reader say, “damn, I can't believe that a teacher is having to go to a private website and ask for paper or ask for set of dictionaries,” so that’s exactly the reaction we want to elicit in our visitors and our donors. When we survey their donors 60% of them said that they where more interested in public education reform as a result of their website experience at DonorChoose.org, because it was there that they had their first really vivid personal connection to what’s going on in public schools and low-income communities. It was much more politically energizing than reading a statistic in newspaper article and I think that’s one reason why 22% of our donor said that they where likelier to vote in an election or in education budget referendum as a result of their experience at our website. So, it is not that we intend to replace the public school system. It's that we go to do something right now about all the kids going without the resources they need to learn and in the process, we think that we are going to push or nudge or frustrate the public school system into improving and into delivering the resources that students need.

 

Recorded on: 1/29/08


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