I am a repeat offender at Donors Choose - over the years, friends, strangers and foundations have chipped in (conservatively) $12,000 toward my classroom. I like Donors Choose because I pick what I want: sensory integration equipment, novel math manipulatives, art supplies, stuff for my students to take home over the summer, and so on. It's all stuff my school cannot purchase itself and mostly stuff I couldn't supply either. (Well, I could in theory blow the two thousand bucks or so I spend every year on, say, twenty backpacks, a rug and some PeaPods, but I'd rather buy ingredients for cooking and sequins and stuff like that.)
Still, the idea that teachers should rely on the good will and pocketbooks of strangers through personal initiative (mine to write a grant, funders to support it) is problematic on all kinds of levels. Aren't we supposed to be a public system, funded through the pocketbooks of strangers in the form of taxes? Is the system equitable? Are the most critical projects being funded? Do teachers have equal access to the process? Of course, these are all concerns that are ameliorated by the promise of cold, hard cash for the stuff I need. And the vast majority of donors - foundations and individuals - are doing what I consider good in the world.
I imagine that the Koret Foundation believes it is doing good by supporting the Hoover Institution's education wing and its recommendations: charter schools, vouchers, Teach for America, boot camp for Black children (quite literally: they support the OMI and figuratively in the form of KIPP), and so on. I believe that they are funding the destruction of public education and supporting racist ideology, but certainly they'd say the same of me (...do teachers count as "poverty pimps"?).
The California Teachers Empowerment Network, though...well, I'm sure that they believe they are doing great good by supporting opting out of unions. Or at least they are "empowering" teachers. Their biggest stated reason for this need to empower teachers is that the CTA put bucks behind the No on 8 Campaign. Evidently teachers were disempowered by this action. Also, they note darkly, state Superintendent Jack O'Connell helped make No on 8 commercials. So clearly, opting out of a union will tell Superintendent O'Connell and the CTA...what, exactly? That they need to get out of the business of educating voters about ballot initiatives? That de facto discrimination isn't empowering enough and we need some de jure too?
So when these guys get into putting up cash on Donors Choose, it certainly shines a rather nasty spotlight. I am still choosing the things I want for my students, but the people paying for them will use their support to shine up their credentials, then use those credentials to destroy public education.
I wish they'd stick to funding their little charter initiatives and whatnot.