Sunday, January 06, 2019

Donors Choose to Keep Us Broke

The existence of Donors Choose is a blight on the landscape, a national disgrace. This is an organization that exists solely so we, teachers, can beg for things we need in our classrooms. My students need a video camera. My students need seats. We need a microscope for our science class.

It is simply unconscionable that we don't provide classrooms with these things as a matter of course. How can we claim to be providing an adequate education when kids don't have the necessities? Is the solution to send teachers out to ask donors to help? I'd argue it isn't, and that this is a fundamental shortcoming of our society, like lack of health care.

This is on par with "separate but equal." Why is it that Ms. A. has adequate seating while Ms. B. does not? Is Ms. B. a bad teacher because she didn't go out on Donors Choose and ask for financial help? Should signing up to get people to support fundamental classroom needs be a requirement for teachers? And if it is, are teachers who draw more money more highly effective?

Under that scenario, I'm a truly terrible teacher. I'm in half a room, and no matter how I arrange the seats it will remain inadequate. Should I contact Donors Choose and demand a fund to demolish our school building and redo it so as to accommodate the number of students who actually attend? I need, say, ten million dollars. 100 million dollars. I don't even know how much I need.

If you're wondering why red states are up in arms and on strike, look no further. If you're wondering why LA is about to strike, ask yourself why teachers need to ask strangers to support their work. It's the job of the community to support education. That means not only paying teachers a fair salary, but also providing adequate space and facilities. Red states have turned their collective backs on education, bleeding schools and teachers dry for revenue. They've gone past the breaking point and just can't help themselves.

You could argue that Donors Choose is just a philanthropic organization looking to set things straight. You could argue that their mission is one of charity, or helping teachers to do what they need to, since the government has abandoned us. Were that the case, I'd argue that it behooved Donors Choose to take an activist stance against the abandonment of public education. They ought to be devoting their resources to not only buying chairs for Ms. A's class, but also ensuring that Ms. B. had them too. In short, they ought to be working to ensure their existence not be perpetually necessary.

Of course, you could also argue that a charitable organization ought not to be political. You could argue that no, the idea is to help those who need it and not get in the middle of political disagreements. You could say the best position for an organization like Donors Choose would be political neutrality. In fact, it would be hard to argue with you if you said that.

Of course, the problem is that Donors Choose is not politically neutral. When the execrable film Waiting for Superman came out, Donors Choose promoted it. In fact, it offered moviegoers a $15 credit for seeing the anti-union, anti-public school propaganda piece. In fact, right now you can agree to get updates from Waiting for Superman, and Donors Choose will give you $15.

Here's what Diane Ravitch said about Waiting for Superman and another pro-charter film in her piece, The Myth of Charter Schools:

The message of these films has become alarmingly familiar: American public education is a failed enterprise. The problem is not money. Public schools already spend too much. Test scores are low because there are so many bad teachers, whose jobs are protected by powerful unions. Students drop out because the schools fail them, but they could accomplish practically anything if they were saved from bad teachers.

It's all our fault. There's no inequity. There's no poverty. There's no lack of opportunity or health care. The sole reason students suffer is bad teachers, along with their crooked unions who exist only to enable them. It's ironic, to say the least, that an organization whose existence depends upon inadequate school funding would propagate such a message. It's particularly ironic that they'd embrace a message that the problem is not money when their very existence hinges upon providing needed money.

Nonetheless, that's the message they endorse. If I needed to raise money, I'd find some other way to do it. I won't participate in an organization that promotes nonsensical reformy propaganda. Let Betsy DeVos and her wealthy BFFs get more wealthy some other way.
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