Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools is cutting spending, but several nonprofit organizations are doing just the opposite: They're giving citizens $100 gift cards to finance projects for teachers.
The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation is pairing with the online education charity DonorsChoose.org to put $135,000 worth of gift cards in the hands of citizens. They are then to spend the money on supplies or other support for teachers. The Web site www.Donors Choose.org lists more than 400 projects for which CMS teachers need money.
At a news conference Monday morning at Allenbrook Elementary School, officials said the cards are being given to members of local civic and educational groups such as the dropout-prevention program Communities in Schools and Partners in Out-of-School Time, a group advocating better before- and after-school programs.
Andrew Ladd, a program director for Communities in Schools, said representatives from the DonorsChoose project came to a recent Communities in Schools staff meeting and handed out about 60 cards.
Staff members went on the Web site and found projects to support at schools around the county.
“It's easy to give,” Ladd said. “It's like free money.”
Allenbrook's Carrie Patterson received word-building puzzles and literacy games through the gift-card initiative. But she said she has received about $4,000 to finance about 18 classroom projects since learning about DonorsChoose about four years ago.
Patterson, who teaches special-education students, said she's received everything from field trips to Special Olympics materials, and even a donated refrigerator.
“We've had the smorgasbord,” she said. “I've really been blessed.”
The Knight Foundation is underwriting the gift-card effort. The foundation gave the grant after men with Mustaches for Kids Charlotte spent about a month raising money for DonorsChoose.org projects. They raised more money than mustache-growing groups in other Knight Foundation cities.
The thrill of giving “free money” to teachers has some citizens hooked, apparently.
Leigh Bogucki, development director for Communities in Schools, came away from the news conference clutching several more gift cards.
“I'm going shopping,” she said, grinning.