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DonorsChoose.org LAUSD: $4 Million Grant Gives Parents And Starbucks Customers Power To Fund Teacher Projects (VIDEO)

The Huffington Post    
First Posted: 11/14/11 04:38 PM ET Updated: 01/04/12 09:12 AM ET

The Wasserman Foundation has made a $4 million grant to Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) schools, and, as an Angeleno, if you go to Starbucks or are a parent, you get to decide where $10-15 of it is spent.

Starting this month, all LAUSD parents will receive a $15 DonorsChooseLA.org gift card and, starting January 23, all Los Angeles Starbucks customers will receive a $10 gift card. The gift card will allow them to support any of the requested projects, from easels to protractors to field trips. Once a project reaches its funding goal, DonorsChoose.org delivers the materials, and the parent or Starbucks customer gets photos, a thank-you letter from the teacher and a report showing how each dollar was spent.

DonorChoose.org's press release states that this program will make thousands of Angelenos "education micro-philanthropists and engage with their public schools in a simple, accountable and personal way."

Teachers in Los Angeles and across the country have posted wish-list projects to DonorsChoose.org since 2008, when the nonprofit was founded. But, as LAUSD Superintendent John Deasy told the Huffington Post, this is the first time parents will be given funds to choose the project they like best. "This is extraordinary. It's the single largest gift to DonorsChoose for a single city," said Deasy.

Deasy shared that teachers who already use DonorsChoose.org are excited about the grant, and he hopes it will encourage more to sign up to the site. He also praised the process, saying, "the way this is being funded is so thoughtful, getting funding through involvement throughout the city, especially from our parents."

As DonorsChoose.org's video above explains, the inspiration for the nonprofit came to founder, Charles Best, when he was a teacher at a Bronx high school. "My colleagues and I were talking about books that we wanted our students to read, field trips we wanted to take them on, art supplies that we needed. But these ideas wouldn't go past the lunch room." He continued, "then I just figured that there were people from all walks of life who wanted to help improve our public schools."

Coming at a time of increasingly loud parent frustration at under-performing LAUSD schools, this two-year program puts decision-making power, at least $10-15 of it, directly into the hands of parents. From DonorsChooseLA.org, it is possible to search for a particular school, subject or keyword (i.e. - "frog dissection") among the hundreds of teacher wish-list projects posted so far.

CORRECTION: This article initially stated the gift cards will be distributed at Starbucks beginning on Jan. 1. The distribution does not begin until Jan. 23.
Watch ABC explain how the program will work in Los Angeles:
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